Belfast Telegraph

Labour's Corbyn in snub to IRA victims' families on Northern Ireland visit

Corbyn criticised for not accepting invitation to meet IRA victims during two-day visit

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has hit out at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for not meeting IRA victims during his two-day trip to Northern Ireland.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell last night said he had received no response from the Labour Party to several invitations he had extended to Mr Corbyn to meet those injured or bereaved in IRA attacks.

A Labour source told the Belfast Telegraph that no snub was intended.

"Jeremy Corbyn's visit to Northern Ireland has been planned for some time, with arrangements in place weeks, not days ago," he said.

"We recently received a request to meet by email from Gregory Campbell MP.

"A Labour member of staff has been in touch with his office to let them know that at this late stage his request could not be met."

The East Londonderry MP said he first contacted Mr Corbyn about the matter 10 days ago.

He said it was important Mr Corbyn heard from a cross-section of society during his first visit to Northern Ireland as Labour leader.

"Unfortunately, having posted an invitation, emailed the same invitation, hand-delivered that invitation and personally invited him in a face-to-face interaction today, I am still without a response," Mr Campbell said.

Unionists have criticised Mr Corbyn for his stance on Northern Ireland and accused him of being too close to Sinn Fein.

They have also hit out at his response when asked by the media to condemn IRA violence specifically.

The Labour leader has replied generally and said he condemns all violence.

Mr Campbell said: "Jeremy Corbyn is due to speak at an event in Londonderry on Friday.

"His interest in Northern Ireland over the years could not be described as balanced.

"But as the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition in Parliament, it is important that he should hear a range of views when he arrives for his first visit as Labour leader.

"There will undoubtedly be a focus on the border and as such I have issued an invitation to Mr Corbyn to meet with people who live near the border.

"These are people affected by the terrorism which blighted Northern Ireland for so long and whose views must be heard as part of any attempt to achieve a balanced range of views."

Mr Campbell said that sitting down to talk with victims would "be a very useful opportunity for Jeremy Corbyn to demonstrate just how wiling he is to meet people who live and work in border areas, but whose views he may not have heard face to face before".

Mr Campbell accused the Labour leader of avoiding "specific issues relating to terrorism in Northern Ireland".

When asked if he condemned IRA violence specifically in a BBC Radio Ulster interview in 2015, he answered by saying "I condemn all bombing" and then, "I condemn what was done by the British Army as well as the other sides as well."

Mr Corbyn met former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams regularly at the height of the Troubles, when republicans were ostracised by many MPs.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn yesterday confirmed that he still supported Irish unity which he said was backed by a majority of people on the island of Ireland.

He added: "But in the context of the Good Friday Agreement that can only come about through that constitutional process that is laid down in the agreement and Jeremy fully supports that."

Under the Agreement, a united Ireland requires majority support on both sides of the border.

Belfast Telegraph

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