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Tories slam Labour's 'IRA supporter' John McDonnell

By Arj Singh and Emma Clark

Tory MPs accused Labour's John McDonnell of supporting IRA terrorists after the shadow chancellor questioned George Osborne's fitness for office.

Mr McDonnell described Mr Osborne as a "political Chancellor" who should resign over the disability cuts row.

But Tory MPs criticised him for making a point about integrity on the day of a terror attack in Brussels, considering Mr McDonnell in 2003 said "the bombs and bullets" of the IRA had been responsible for the peace process.

Former Army officer Tom Tugendhat said Mr McDonnell had stood alongside terrorists who murdered his friends.

The Tonbridge and Malling MP said: "You have called into question the morality of the leadership of the Chancellor. Will you please discuss the morality that allows you to stand with bombers who murdered my friends in Northern Ireland and question the integrity of the Chancellor?"

Fellow Tory James Cartlidge also intervened. "Will you withdraw your previous support for terrorist organisations that have attacked this country?" he asked.

Mr McDonnell replied: "You have heard me share the sentiments of the House on Belgium. To bring that into the debate as a political point at this stage is unacceptable."

Responding to Mr Osborne's speech in the Budget debate, Mr McDonnell had said: "The behaviour of the Chancellor over the last 11 days calls into question his fitness for the office he now holds.

"What we've seen is not the actions of a Chancellor, a senior Government minister, but the grubby, incompetent manipulations of a political Chancellor. The Chancellor personally forced through cuts in personal independence payments (PIPs).

"PIPs are the benefits that for many disabled people actually make life worth living. The Chancellor was willing to cut away this vital support to some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people of our community. Do not tell us we're all in this together."

McDonnell caused controversy when he told a gathering to commemorate IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands: "It's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have is due to the action of the IRA."

Mr McDonnell later apologised "from the bottom of my heart" for any offence and admitted he should not have used those words.

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