The PM said she had full confidence in Ms Bradley, who sparked uproar by claiming she was unaware people voted along bitter unionist and religious lines before she got the job.

The Northern Ireland Secretary revealed she initially did not realise nationalists did not vote for unionist parties or vice-versa in elections.

Ms Bradley, who was appointed in January, also said she did not fathom some of the deep-rooted issues that define Northern Irish politics.

Downing Street refused to be drawn on the criteria used by the PM when appointing ministers.

A No10 spokeswoman said: “The Northern Ireland Secretary is working incredibly hard to restore devolved government to Northern Ireland.”

Asked if Mrs May remained confident Ms Bradley was able to do the job, the spokeswoman replied: “Yes, she is working closely with the parties there.”

And asked how voters in Northern Ireland could have confidence in the minister, she added: “I would point to all the work that she is doing to restore devolved government to Northern Ireland.”

Ms Bradley told The House magazine: “I didn’t understand things like when elections are fought in Northern Ireland — people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice-versa.

“So, parties fight for election within their own community.

“Actually, the unionist parties fight the elections against each other in unionist communities and nationalists in nationalist communities.”

Sinn Fein’s former Stormont finance minister Mairtin O Muilleoir said her comments were a “sorry reminder” of where the country was on the priority list of the British government.

The Sun Says: Brad to worse

We were already aghast when Karen Bradley opposed an amnesty for veterans of the Troubles because terrorists would need the same deal.

We now learn of her naive surprise on discovering Northern Ireland in 2018 is less bleak than she recalled from 1980s telly footage of IRA atrocities.

Worse, she admits that until January she had no idea unionists vote for unionist parties, nationalists for nationalists.

In eight years as an MP this basic principle had somehow passed her by until, staggeringly, she was over-promoted into this most sensitive and high-profile of jobs by her friend Theresa May.

Equally worrying is that Ms Bradley feels no embarrassment, “freely admitting” her cluelessness instead of taking the secret to her grave as most would.

We are all presumably meant to share her breezy delight at being awakened to elementary concepts at the age of 48.

Most people will instead be horrified that she is where she is.

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