Arlene Foster to say Jeremy Corbyn 'beyond pale' for past support of republicans

Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster will attack Jeremy Corbyn as beyond the "political pale" because of his past support for Irish republicans.

In a speech today, she is expected to attack the Labour leader's democratic credentials and voice support for his Conservative rival.

Mr Corbyn has said he wanted the violence in Northern Ireland to stop but refused to single out the IRA for condemnation during recent interviews.

Mrs Foster said: "While Theresa May is well within the political mainstream and has proven herself to be a solid and reliable unionist, Jeremy Corbyn is beyond the political pale.

"It is hard to take seriously the democratic credentials of a man who was so close to the political representatives of the IRA at the height of the Troubles."

Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have faced scrutiny over their association with Irish republicans.

Before the IRA ceasefire they met Sinn Féin in Westminster during the 1990s.

Also this weekend, it emerged that Diane Abbott explicitly backed victory for the IRA in an interview with a pro-republican journal.

The Sunday Times found that Ms Abbott, who will become home secretary if Labour wins the election, said in the 1984 interview that Ireland "is our struggle - every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us. A defeat in Northern Ireland would be a defeat indeed".

Mrs Foster will today address a meeting of the pro-Brexit Bruges Group in Mayfair on Brexit and the Union.

She is expected to say: "Who could deny that the situation of Northern Ireland within the UK, and indeed Ireland within the EU, will face different challenges from other areas affected by the UK's EU exit and will require unique and tailored solutions?

"However, I do not believe that a circular argument about some ill-defined and ill-conceived so-called special status for Northern Ireland is helpful: indeed, it is more likely to be counter-productive."

She said she was prepared to be flexible over Brexit.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O'Neill has said the election was a political fight back and a call to action as rights were under attack.

"We have to fight back against the reckless and dangerous policies of the self-serving Tory government in London which is about forcing a disastrous Brexit on the north and dragging us against our will from the EU," she said.

"Everyone here knows the impact that will have on our business, trade, agri-food, tourism and other sectors of the economy, with the imposition of trade tariffs, a border and denying people the freedom of movement north and south. It will severely undermine the progress of the past 20 years."

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