Belfast Telegraph

Watch: I attended IRA event to aid peace, Corbyn tells TV debate audience

By Staff Reporter

Jeremy Corbyn has said he attended a republican commemoration in London for the IRA men killed by the SAS to encourage peace talks.

A Northern Irish man challenged the Labour leader over attending a commemoration for those killed during an attempted terror attack in Loughgall in 1987 during last night's televised Sky News/Channel 4 leaders debate.

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Studio audience member Callum McNeill asked the Labour leader why he had attended the meeting which "honoured" eight members of the republican terror cell who attempted to attack the RUC in the village.

Mr McNeill claimed the Labour leader had "openly supported the IRA in the past".

Three men drove a digger with a bomb in its bucket through the perimeter fence while the rest of the unit opened fire on the building. The base was half destroyed by the bomb but no soldiers were killed. Instead the SAS ambushed and killed the group.

Mr Corbyn defended attending the meeting, saying it was to honour everyone who had died in Northern Ireland during the conflict.

"The commemoration I think you're referring to was a meeting I was at in London where there was a period of silence for everyone who had died in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The contribution I made to that meeting was to call for a peace and dialogue. It is only by dialogue and process that we brought about the peace in Northern Ireland.

"I think that is a good thing and I think going forward we need to make sure that during the Brexit negotiations there is no return to any kind of hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland."

Mr Corbyn said he did make contact with Sinn Fein when their leadership was not allowed to travel to Britain as he wanted a peace process.

"And that peace process came about by the actions of people such as John Hume, such as Gerry Adams, such as David Trimble, who eventually brought about ceasefires.

"That brought about the Good Friday Agreement, which respects all the historical traditions of Ireland, which is obviously fundamental to bring about peace."

Later, Theresa May insisted she is providing police with the resources and powers they need, after she was confronted by a serving officer on live TV about "devastating" cuts during her time as home secretary.

But the Prime Minister did not provide an answer to a request from the officer, whose name was given as Martin, for a specific number of additional officers which she would recruit if re-elected in the June 8 general election.

Mrs May acknowledged that numbers of police in England and Wales had fallen by around 20,000.

But she said: "What we had to do when we came into government in 2010 was to ensure that we were living within our means and that was very important because of the economic situation we had inherited.

"It's not just about the numbers of police - people often focus on the numbers of police. It's actually about what the police are able to do and how they are being deployed on our streets.

"In counter-terrorism policing we have protected those budgets and we are currently protecting police budgets.

"Of course the terrorist threat is severe, but that's why we ensure that our police, our security service have that counter-terrorism budget and we are increasing the budgets for our security services, but also that they have the powers they need to do the job."

Martin responded: "I appreciate you are protecting the budgets, but we still need the staff to carry out the role of the police officer of keeping the public safe."

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