Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland leaders react to Jeremy Corbyn's IRA stance

Sinn Fein say Corbyn 'respected' their mandate - while DUP leader Arlene Foster says he is 'beyond the political pale'

Northern Ireland's leaders have reacted after Labour's Jeremy Corbyn refused to single out the IRA for condemnation.

The Labour leader came under fire following a television interview in which he faced repeated questions over whether he condemned the IRA.

Mr Corbyn - who attended rallies and protests organised by the Republican-backed Troops Out Movement in the 1980s - said he condemned "all bombing" but had been trying to open up a peace process.

As Sinn Fein launched the party's General Election manifesto on Monday, its leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said Mr Corbyn was someone who "respected our democratic mandate".

She said: "Jeremy Corbyn was someone who saw the primacy of dialogue, who engaged with Sinn Fein down through the years and respected our democratic mandate when others would not, so I think that his track record speaks for itself."

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DUP leader Arlene Foster attacked Mr Corbyn on Monday in a speech on Brexit in London.

Making her remarks she 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.

"It is hard to see much good coming for the Labour Party from the coming election except the replacement of their leader."

Meanwhile Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said Mr Corbyn was "on the right side of history" and "what he did was very modest, what he did was very fundamental.

Mr Adams said the debate was a complete distraction and criticised the DUP's Arlene Foster for intervening in it during a speech in London on Monday.

He added: "If Arlene Foster is lending herself to that complete distraction then she is trying to divert attention away from her party's support for an English Brexit, when she should be acknowledging the vote of the people here in the North and standing up for their rights."

In addition Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire demanded Mr Corbyn and his team "come clean about their true attitudes towards IRA terrorism".

He 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."

Mr Corbyn's comments came during an interview with Sky News's Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme in which he defended his contacts with Republicans in the midst of the IRA bombing campaign.

"In the 1980s Britain was looking for a military solution in Ireland. It clearly was never going to work. Ask anyone in the British Army at that time," he said.

"Therefore you have to seek a peace process. You condemn the violence of those that laid bombs that killed large numbers of innocent people and I do."

Pressed as to whether he would "condemn the IRA without equating it to ...?" Mr Corbyn replied: "No, I think what you have to say is all bombing has to be condemned and you have to bring about a peace process."

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