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

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Mr Eastwood said the remarks are appalling and should be withdrawn immediately.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

  • CIA, MI6 and Turkey's rogue game in Syria: Claims Ankara worked with US and UK to smuggle Gaddafi's weapons to jihadi fighters, and Jabhat al-Nusra aided by Turkish intelligence in sarin gas attacks
     

  •   Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other
     
  • Syria: brigade of all-female jihadists demand equality with men
     
  • There's nothing 'Islamic' about Isis
     
  • Inside Isis: First Western journalist given full access to 'Islamic State' warns it’s 'much stronger and more dangerous than we think'  
  • Special reports: Life under Isis

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