Belfast Telegraph

John McDonnell tells how he still longs for a united Ireland

But the shadow chancellor insisted Brexit would not cause his dream to be realised.

John McDonnell said he longed for a united Ireland (Steve Parsons/PA)
John McDonnell said he longed for a united Ireland (Steve Parsons/PA)

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has told how he longs for a united Ireland, but insisted he recognises the democratic will of the people.

The long-standing Republican dismissed suggestions his dream would be realised as a result of the Irish backstop row that has stalled Brexit talks.

Mr McDonnell went on to joke that he would put his application in for the Protestant Orange Order however, if the next election led to a hung parliament.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s ten MPs currently prop up Theresa May’s minority administration.

At a lunch with journalists in Westminster,  he said: “I’m a Republican. I long for a united Ireland, but I recognise democracy.

“Ireland will not be united on the basis of some contortions around the issue of the relationship with the EU.

“It will only be reunited on the basis of the popular support of the Irish people, and that’s what I respect.

“Nothing in these discussions should in any way cause any damage to the Good Friday Agreement and its implementation.”

He added: “There will be some curious relationships that come out of a general election.

“I can get my application for the Orange Order and order my bowler hat and sash for the marching season. You never know.”

Mr McDonnell apologised in 2015 for previously saying the IRA should be honoured for its role in bringing the British Government to the negotiating table.

The shadow chancellor said Labour “could be in government within months” and claimed a general election was increasingly likely because Conservative MPs “hate each other more than they hate us”.

“We are ready for that and we are prepared for that, staffed up, budgeted up, prepared, planned up all ready for it whenever it happens,” he said.

He added that if there was balanced broadcast coverage, “I think we will pick up the necessary points to take us into government”.

Mr McDonnell compared Mrs May’s Brexit approach to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Mr McDonnell said he expected the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to make an offer to the UK for “fear of Boris and others”.

“It will be a fudge and it will be a delay and no matter how much Theresa May dresses herself up as Churchill when she comes back it will be Neville Chamberlain,” he said.

“It will be a Neville Chamberlain moment – peace in our time.”

He said Labour would support a deal that protected jobs and the economy.

“If it doesn’t, we will vote against it and call for a general election,” he added.

“If there isn’t a general election we will have the fallback position, we’ll look to see whether there’s another option there and it might well be a people’s vote of some sort.”

Mr McDonnell urged the Government to plough money into children’s services in the upcoming budget saying there was a £2 billion funding gap otherwise that must be filled or the “most vulnerable” youngsters would be “at risk”.

PA

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