Northern Ireland news

Jeremy Corbyn condemns all Troubles' violence but refuses to brand IRA as 'terrorists'

SOLUTION: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott during campaigning in Hull. Left, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams PIctureS: Chris Radburn/PA and Mal McCann

JEREMY Corbyn has condemned "all acts of violence from wherever they came" during the Troubles but declined to specifically denounce the IRA as terrorists.

The Labour leader spoke after Secretary of State James Brokenshire accused him of having "IRA sympathies" and urged him to make clear whether he believes the group were terrorists and if their actions should be "unequivocally" condemned.

Mr Corbyn has come under fire for refusing to single out the IRA for condemnation when pressed over his past campaigning activities, and he again refused to mention the republican paramilitary organisation specifically.

Mr Brokenshire's questions were put to Mr Corbyn yesterday by a reporter after the Labour leader gave a speech in Hull.

"I condemn all acts of violence in Northern Ireland from wherever they came," the Islington North MP said.

"I spent the whole of the 1980s representing a constituency with a large number of Irish people in it, we wanted peace, we wanted justice, we wanted a solution."

He said that from 1997 onwards the Labour government helped to bring in the historic Good Friday Agreement, the basis of which was the recognition of the differing cultural histories and values of Northern Ireland. He said the accord had stood the test of time.

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

Before the IRA ceasefire, they controversially met Sinn Féin several times in Westminster during the 1990s.

The row over the pair's past activities has prompted the intervention of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Mr Adams said Mr Corbyn was "on the right side of history" in supporting Irish republicans and had respected the party's democratic mandate.

"What he did was very modest, what he did was very fundamental," Mr Adams said.

Mr Ahern, who worked to secure the Good Friday Agreement, warned against digging up "any of the enmities, animosities of the past".

The retired Fianna Fáil leader told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "Of course we all condemn the violence of all sides in the past and we want to move on.

"Jeremy Corbyn, I think, always kept the door open to Sinn Féin during those difficult days, but we want to get away from the violence of the past and hopefully that never returns."

Mr McDonnell has apologised for comments he made praising the IRA's "bravery" in 2003.

After becoming Labour leader in 2015, Mr Corbyn defended reaching out to republicans during the Troubles – insisting he wanted the violence to stop.

But Mr Brokenshire said: "I have listened with interest and concern to the various attempts by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to explain their attitudes towards IRA terrorism during the 1980s and 1990s.

"Their complete failure unequivocally to condemn terrorism, and to attempt to contextualise it, are deeply worrying coming from two people who in just over two weeks seek to be entrusted with the security of the United Kingdom."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mr Corbyn's refusal to denounce the IRA was "abhorrent" .

"Here we have a man who is putting himself forward to lead our nation and yet he cannot condemn an organisation which was taking away the fundamental human rights of British citizens living not just in Northern Ireland but right across the United Kingdom," the former first minister said in London.

"I think he has put himself outside the political pale - I think it is abhorrent he seems to be caught up with the perpetrators of violence without any thought for those of us who were victims of the IRA violence through the Troubles."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said Mr Corbyn's failure to condemn the IRA meant he could not be considered as a future prime minister.

He said many Labour members would be "absolutely disgusted if not unsurprised" the Labour leader's remarks.

"John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn had no role in the peace process – if anything, their grandstanding with apologists for murder possibly extended the Troubles by giving succour to the IRA," Mr Swann said.

"If Mr Corbyn cannot see right from wrong, what faith can any man or woman in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland have in Jeremy Corbyn as a potential prime minister to protect and defend them when under attack from other terrorist organisations or repressive regimes."

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