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Jeremy Corbyn rapped over 'disrespectful' behaviour during Thiepval commemoration

By David Young

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of showing a lack of respect to Ulster's Great War dead after he turned up unannounced at a Somme commemoration service.

The beleaguered politician angered people attending yesterday's Somme centenary at the Ulster Memorial Tower in Thiepval by arriving after the event had begun, using his mobile phone, and then leaving before the end of the service.

Mr Corbyn, whose opposition to war is well-documented, wasn't on the guest list of the Somme Association event in France.

Observers said the Labour chief arrived 10 minutes after the ceremony began.

One man said: "He slipped up the side of the main body of people who were there and stood for part of the service.

"But he didn't even stay until the end.

"He made his way out before the commemoration was over."

Another man said: "What made it worse was that he was standing outside the gates of the tower using his mobile phone - which was hardly respectful to the service, or to the thousands of people who died at the Somme."

Mr Corbyn's newly appointed shadow Ulster Scretary David Anderson - now also appointed Shadow Scottish Secretary - was also seen leaving after his party leader had departed.

Mr Corbyn is under increasing pressure to quit as Labour leader over claims that his campaign for the Remain side in the EU referendum was lukewarm.

Officials from the Somme Association confirmed yesterday that neither Mr Corbyn nor Mr Anderson had been invited to yesterday's commemoration, and had given no indication that they wanted to attend.

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Corbyn should have put his political problems to one side and realised this was a time for respectful remembrance  

DUP MP Ian Paisley, who attended the service, said Mr Corbyn had been at the main Thiepval service before he went to the event at the Ulster Memorial Tower.

He said: "It was an incredibly moving experience to be at the Somme this year as an Ulsterman.

"I always think that at these events you expect everyone to show total respect -given that we are showing our gratitude to the tens of thousands of people who gave their lives for us.

"I think it's a time for people to reflect on that - that's what should be important," the North Antrim MP told the Belfast Telegraph.

Somme Association director Carol Walker said that over 3,000 people attended the poignant ceremony, including families from the US and from countries of the Commonwealth.

Dignitaries attending included the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and First Minister Arlene Foster.

She said she had heard that Mr Corbyn had turned up unannounced at the event - but the First Minister said she had not seen him herself.

Ms Walker was not aware of the leader of the Opposition making himself known to any of the VIPs present before leaving the commemoration.

The Labour Party did not respond to contact from the Belfast Telegraph last night.

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