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Syria vote: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood calls on David Cameron to withdraw 'terrorist sympathisers' remarks

Published 02/12/2015

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wants David Cameron to withdraw his 'terrorist' comments
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wants David Cameron to withdraw his 'terrorist' comments

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on David Cameron to withdraw remarks describing MPs opposed to air strikes in Syria as 'terrorist sympathisers'.

On Tuesday David Cameron told Conservative MPs not to side with "a bunch of terrorist sympathisers" ahead of the vote on UK air strikes.

“You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,” the PM reportedly told  a meeting of the 1922 committee.

Mr Eastwood said the remarks are appalling and should be withdrawn immediately.

Speaking from the launch of a new book charting the life and career of civil rights giant John Hume, Mr Eastwood said: "David Cameron’s remarks describing those opposed to air strikes in Syria as ‘terrorist sympathisers’ are appalling, inaccurate and offensive in the extreme. Opposing military action in Syria that will kill innocents and can only feed the evil we all want to defeat is not sympathy with terrorists, it’s part of the lesson we have learned from decades of conflict.

"To describe people like Mark Durkan, Margaret Ritchie and Alasdair McDonnell as ‘terrorist sympathisers’ is absolutely galling. These are people who stood strongly against violence for over forty years at great personal risk while people like David Cameron enjoyed a life of privilege. His comments are totally despicable and he should withdraw them immediately.

"SDLP MPs will proudly walk through the voting lobbies with our colleagues in Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and other parties to oppose military action tomorrow. We will not legitimise the trigger finger of a Prime Minister more concerned with the theatrics of winning a political victory over the Labour Party than the devastation that will rain down on innocents in Raqqa as they are used as human shields by vicious cowards in IS.

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Protesters stand behind a banner that reads 'Don't bomb Syria' during a demonstration against British military action in Syria outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Protesters stand behind a banner that reads 'Don't bomb Syria' during a demonstration against British military action in Syria outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Demonstrators march past Conservative and Labour Party headquarters in London to protest against military intervention in Syria. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 1, 2015. The emergency protest was called by the Stop the War coalition ahead of Wednesday's vote on airstrikes. See PA story Syria Protest . Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Demonstrators march past Conservative and Labour Party headquarters in London to protest against military intervention in Syria. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 1, 2015. The emergency protest was called by the Stop the War coalition ahead of Wednesday's vote on airstrikes. See PA story Syria Protest . Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Demonstrators march past Conservative and Labour Party headquarters in London to protest against military intervention in Syria. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 1, 2015. The emergency protest was called by the Stop the War coalition ahead of Wednesday's vote on airstrikes. See PA story Syria Protest . Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Demonstrators march past Conservative and Labour Party headquarters in London to protest against military intervention in Syria. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 1, 2015. The emergency protest was called by the Stop the War coalition ahead of Wednesday's vote on airstrikes. See PA story Syria Protest . Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Thousands of people protest against military intervention in Syria near Parliament Square in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 1, 2015. The emergency protest was called by the Stop the War coalition ahead of Wednesday's vote on airstrikes. See PA story Syria Protest . Photo credit should read: Sam Dean/PA Wire
British campaigner and journalist Andrew Murray, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, moves through police officers standing guard to hand in a letter at Conservative Party offices in central London on December 1, 2015 during a demonstration against British military action in Syria. Britain looks poised to join air strikes on Islamic State (IS) group targets in Syria this week after Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that a vote would be held in parliament on December 2. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
A protester holds a placard reading 'Don't bomb Syria' during a demonstration against British military action in Syria outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2015. Britain looks poised to join air strikes on Islamic State (IS) group targets in Syria this week after Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that a vote would be held in parliament on December 2. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
A protester holds a placard reading 'Don't bomb Syria' during a demonstration against British military action in Syria outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2015. Britain looks poised to join air strikes on Islamic State (IS) group targets in Syria this week after Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that a vote would be held in parliament on December 2. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
A lone protester opposed to British military action in Syria holds a placard reading 'Don't be daft, Dave!' outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2015. Britain looks poised to join air strikes on Islamic State (IS) group targets in Syria this week after Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that a vote would be held in parliament on Wednesday. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
A peace protestor holds placards outside Downing Street, London, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a debate and vote in Parliament on Wednesday on whether Britain should launch airstrikes against militants in Syria, arguing that the nation must stand with its allies in confronting extremism. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: A protester holds a banner with the slogan "No Terror Attacks Are Righteous" during Stop The War Coalition's emergency protest on December 1, 2015 in London, England. The emergency protest which will march past The Conservative and Labour party headquarters has been called ahead of tomorrows vote in Parliament on whether the United Kingdom will commence bombing operations over Syria. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Police officers stand guard at the Conservative Party's Headquarters during the Stop The War Coalition's emergency protest on December 1, 2015 in London, England. The emergency protest which will march past The Conservative and Labour party headquarters has been called ahead of tomorrows vote in Parliament on whether the United Kingdom will commence bombing operations over Syria. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Protesters depart Parliament Square during Stop The War Coalition's emergency protest on December 1, 2015 in London, England. The emergency protest which will march past The Conservative and Labour party headquarters has been called ahead of tomorrows vote in Parliament on whether the United Kingdom will commence bombing operations over Syria. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Protesters arrive back in Parliament Square after Stop The War Coalition's emergency protest on December 1, 2015 in London, England. The emergency protest which will march past The Conservative and Labour party headquarters has been called ahead of tomorrows vote in Parliament on whether the United Kingdom will commence bombing operations over Syria. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Protesters hold up a Syrian flag as they take part in a Stop The War Coalition emergency protest on December 1, 2015 in London, England. The emergency protest, which will march past The Conservative and Labour party headquarters, has been organised ahead of tomorrows vote in Parliament on whether the United Kingdom will commence bombing operations over Syria. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Protesters hold up banners as they take part in a Stop The War Coalition emergency protest on December 1, 2015 in London, England. The emergency protest, which will march past The Conservative and Labour party headquarters, has been organised ahead of tomorrows vote in Parliament on whether the United Kingdom will commence bombing operations over Syria. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

"There are all sorts of claims that airstrikes are a precise form of attack. Yet we know from experience in places like Gaza that they’re not. I’ve been at the scene of an airstrike the day after someone pressed the button. I know the devastation they can have. This is not the right way to deal with the threat from IS."

"Cameron will win no allies by decrying those with legitimate concerns about his plans. He should resile from his comments immediately and see sense."

Labour dismissed the prime minister’s comments as "contemptible and desperate slur which demeans his office".

A Labour party spokesman said: "He [David Cameron] clearly realises he has failed to make a convincing case for military action in Syria and opinion is shifting away from him."

Earlier DUP Deputy leader Nigel Dodds MP said that the DUP would be supporting the Government’s motion on UK military action in Syria.

Mr Dodds said: "Our test throughout has been one of realism. Our experience in Northern Ireland has taught us that no other approach can be brought to terrorism.

"We needed to know that the vile terrorists of ISIL/Daesh would be the target. We had to be sure that they are a clear and present danger to the UK. We needed to be convinced that British action would make a real and practical difference. And we required a definite strategic framework being in place, including a clear exit strategy for British personnel.

"After repeated briefings from the National Security Council on Privy Council Terms, and much discussion with the Prime Minister and others in government, we have concluded that the time is right for us to act, and to act decisively.

"Terrorism requires an answer from all civilised countries. We in Northern Ireland know what it’s like for terrorism to be ignored or appeased.

"Unlike the failed strategy advocated in 2013, which we opposed, there is now a realistic chance that overwhelming pressure can be brought to bear against Daesh.

"The Vienna agreement, the range of countries, now including Germany, ready to act militarily, and the unanimous support in the UN Security Council all point to the differences with 2013.

"Paris, like the downing of the Russian Metrojet in Sinai and the recent bomb attacks in Beirut, were assaults upon civilised values which must be met with resolve and quiet certainty. No other British City should have to suffer the way Belfast and other towns and places in Northern Ireland did for so many years. If we can realistically do something to destroy this evil, to prevent it spreading still further, we should act now.

"I applaud the specific commitments the Prime Minister has made in response to the points I have put to him, not least about the use of British ground forces. Western arms can do their bit to help address Middle Eastern problems, but ultimately they must solve their problems themselves.

But the moment has come where we can no longer stand by on the other side. Civilians are dying, being raped or enslaved at the hands of ISIL/Daesh every day. These are the civilian casualties already happening and we must not through inaction prolong their suffering.

"Now that British armed forces are to be employed in the common good, it is the duty of every credible political figure to offer them his or her support. The Leader of the Opposition has a reprehensible track record of defending the claims of terrorists against our brave servicemen and women. He will not easily be forgiven if he does so again. We wish HM Armed Forces success as they do their hard and necessary work, and pray for a safe return for them all."

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