Belfast Telegraph

Corbyn denies being IRA supporter as he's grilled over his No.10 ambitions

By Richard Wheeler

Jeremy Corbyn insisted he did not and does not support the IRA as he faced renewed questions over his links with the republican terror group.

The Labour leader stressed his desire for peace in Northern Ireland, adding: "I never met the IRA."

Mr Corbyn also denied claims he supported the armed struggle for a united Ireland but was seeking to distance himself from this position in his bid to become Prime Minister.

His remarks came during a BBC One interview with Andrew Neil.

Asked why people would want him as PM given his previous support for the IRA, Mr Corbyn replied: "I didn't support the IRA. I don't support the IRA.

"What I want everywhere is a peace process. What I want everywhere is decency and human rights.

"We went through all the horrors of Northern Ireland - all through the Seventies and Eighties - through the period of the Troubles, and eventually came from that a peace process, the Good Friday Agreement, and now relative peace and stability."

Mr Corbyn said a minute's silence he observed in 1987 for the eight IRA members killed by the SAS in Loughgall was "for all who'd died" in Northern Ireland.

Questioned if he urged the IRA to stop the bombs, Mr Corbyn replied: "I never met the IRA. I obviously did meet people from Sinn Fein, as indeed I met people from other organisations, and I always made the point that there had to be a dialogue and a peace process.

"Now, a lot of people did a lot of work on this and eventually it was Mo Mowlam as much as anybody else that managed to bring those groups together, and she used a lot of connections in order to bring those people together. And I think we should recognise that."

Mr Neil later asked: "Isn't the truth that you've basically supported the armed struggle for a united Ireland, but now you want to be Prime Minister you have to distance yourself from it?"

Mr Corbyn said: "No. What I want is peace. What I want is to learn the lessons from Northern Ireland and also to make sure during the Brexit negotiations we don't return to or receive any kind of hard border between the North and the Republic."

But Mr Neil pressed him further asking why he invited convicted IRA terrorists to tea in the Commons a few weeks after the Brighton bomb, stood for a minute's silence to honour IRA terrorists killed by the British Army, and spoke at scores of republican gatherings.

"I always wanted and always do want peace, always want a dialogue between people of vastly different backgrounds. And the minute's silence you referred to was in 1987 and it was for all who'd died in Northern Ireland," he said.

Mr Neil also put to Mr Corbyn bluntly: "The IRA killed 1,800 people."

The Labour leader responded: "Yes. And people were killed by loyalist bombs as well. All deaths are appalling, all deaths are wrong. There isn't a military solution to a conflict between traditions and communities. There has to be a better way and a better process of doing it."

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