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Sir Keir returns to shadow cabinet after heading probe into IRA's rape cover-up

By PA Political Staff

Published 07/10/2016

Move: Sir Keir Starmer. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Move: Sir Keir Starmer. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

A top human rights lawyer who led a review into how Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) handled three cases linked to an alleged rape and IRA cover-up has been appointed to the shadow cabinet.

Sir Keir Starmer QC, the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service who stormed out of the shadow cabinet in June, has been invited back as shadow Brexit secretary - a move that will bring on board one of the major moderate figures in the party.

Sir Keir was asked to investigate three connected cases involving sex abuse and terrorist-related charges following claims by Mairia Cahill that she had been raped by an IRA member when she was younger.

DPP Barra McGrory QC apologised after Sir Keir found that the PPS and prosecuting counsel had let the women down.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Keir brings vital experience to this role at what is a crucial time for Britain."

Mr Corbyn is rebuilding his frontbenches after the mass walkout of shadow cabinet members who opposed him in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in June.

Shami Chakrabarti, the former Liberty director who carried out a controversial investigation into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, has also been appointed.

Baroness Chakrabarti, who was made a life peer by Mr Corbyn after her report was published, is to be the new shadow attorney general, the Labour leader announced.

Mr Corbyn also handed a major promotion to his long-time ally Diane Abbott, making her shadow home secretary, as he began reshuffling his top team in the wake of his latest leadership victory.

Dozens of posts were left unfilled, with many Corbyn loyalists "double jobbing" in multiple roles.

In a surprise move, the Labour leader made veteran Nick Brown - a long-standing ally of former leader Gordon Brown - chief whip, replacing Rosie Winterton after six years in the role.

Clive Lewis, who only became an MP for the first time last year, has risen sharply through the ranks, from shadow defence secretary to shadow business secretary, replacing Jon Trickett.

Mr Corbyn has so far been resistant to calls from former shadow cabinet members for the body's membership to be decided by a ballot of MPs.

But the appointment of Mr Brown and Sir Keir may be a signal from the Labour leader that he wants to reach out to critics on the backbenches - while those who have previously expressed a lack of confidence in him show they are prepared to return after his landslide re-election by the membership.

However, a number of anti-Corbyn MPs, such as failed leadership challenger Owen Smith, have insisted they could not serve under him.

Mr Corbyn has also appointed Sarah Champion to the role of shadow women and equalities minister, and Jo Stevens as shadow Welsh secretary. Ms Champion was one of dozens of Labour frontbenchers who quit in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership in June - only to ask for her job back a month later.

Shadow chancellor John McDonell is expected to stay in place.

Belfast Telegraph

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