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Views of some within the Labour hierarchy truly beggar belief

As the campaigning for the general election quickens from today after the suspension in the wake of the Manchester bombing, both main party leaders will need to clarify their strategy.

Prime Minister Theresa May will have to overcome the Tory wobble after the ill-conceived social care plans outlined in the manifesto, but Jeremy Corbyn will have a much bigger task to convince the electorate that he is fit to lead the country.

In his speech last Friday he seemed to infer that the cause of the Manchester bombing, and other militant Islamic atrocities, could be traced to British foreign policy and our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

That is a view that will cut little ice with the British victims of those conflicts and the relatives, and the electorate will make up its own mind about Mr Corbyn's views.

The Labour leader is also unconvincing about his apparent condemnation of the Provisional IRA campaign of bombing and other extreme violence, particularly as this view had to be dragged out of him after a long political speech during which he failed to speak out against the men and women of violence.

Corbyn has further trapped himself in the mire in relation to his signing of a parliamentary motion in 1987 in the wake of the Poppy Day massacre that appeared to claim the bombing was due to the British occupation of Northern Ireland.

Such views are outrageous, and extremely hurtful to the victims of the Enniskillen bombing and their relatives and friends.

It beggars belief that the leader of a major British party is so biased he cannot find any grounds to blame those ruthless republican paramilitaries who killed and maimed innocent people who were remembering the war dead at the town's cenotaph.

All of this underlines that Mr Corbyn does not have the depth, even-handedness and breadth of mind to lead a major political party, never mind a country.

The Labour leader is not helped by senior members of the shadow cabinet, including Diane Abbott, who already made a fool of herself in her media interview about policing. Ms Abbott has once again underlined her lack of fitness for office by her crass remarks when confronted about her support for the IRA, saying her views on the Provos had changed over the years, just like her hairstyle.

This showed a lack of concern for what happened in Enniskillen and elsewhere, and her inability to handle a serious question that deserved a measured answer, not something trite and dismissive.

The whole question of the suffering caused by the Troubles remains a painful and sensitive issue for people on all sides, and people need to speak about this with sensitivity and human understanding.

In today's paper Declan Kearney of Sinn Fein shows a much a more measured approach to this subject.

He acknowledges the pain and hurt which has been felt and caused, and this will strike a chord with people on all sides.

He writes: "There is no distinction between the carnage and suffering which results from all wars. In Ireland, hurt was caused on all sides. There was and is no hierarchy of victimhood or humanity. The Irish peace process is the most important political project in Ireland. Our peace process is proof that another world is possible."

These are welcome words from a senior Sinn Fein figure, but we also cannot overlook the actions of militant republicanism - and also militant loyalism - over a long period, and much of the damage caused in human terms will never be overcome.

However, we must all look to the future and keep on trying to work together to make a lasting peace a reality.

There are many issues still to be hammered out during the last weeks of the general election campaign, but it is also important to remember that major problems for the people of Northern Ireland continue to pile up.

The waiting lists in the NHS are getting longer, education remains badly in need of resources, and the RHI scandal continues to burn away our money.

All these issues are really what matter, and not the outdated views of the Labour hierarchy, which are an insult to the people of Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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