Belfast Telegraph

Labour's John McDonnell admits his pro-IRA comments 'part of the problem'

John McDonnell accepting a Hunger Strike plaque from Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly
John McDonnell accepting a Hunger Strike plaque from Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly

Labour MP John McDonnell has admitted that his previous comments in support of the IRA helped foster religious division.

The Shadow Chancellor and close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was speaking to the Daily Record ahead of the Scottish Labour Conference this weekend.

In the past Liverpool-born MP Mr McDonnell has made a number of statements in support of the IRA and hunger striker Bobby Sands.

“I suppose I am part of it really. We are all learning lessons about how we should live with each other and respect different traditions,” the Labour MP said

“I’ve apologised for some of the statements I’ve made in the past. You just have to understand that and appreciate it. And if you feel you have said something that was not appropriate or was wrong, it is best to hold your hand up.”

The 67-year-old MP said his views had been shaped by the experience of growing up as a Catholic in Liverpool.

“If you look at my home town of Liverpool even as a young child, I remember the divisions in that city," Mr McDonnell said.

“Now these divisions have largely healed. There is a celebration of Irish culture, in all its aspects, in Liverpool. It gives me hope you can override these sectarian divisions.

“The way the Irish community has come together in Liverpool is an example to others and one I am quite proud of. People are willing to talk now in a way they did not in the past and I think it is the same in Scotland.

“That was the result of a lot of work, a combination of civic and religious leaders coming together. The two cathedrals in Liverpool do not stand for sectarianism any more. They stand for two churches bringing people and congregations together.”

Bobby Sands
Bobby Sands

In the past Mr McDonnell has praised the IRA's bravery.

“The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process,” he once said.

He has since apologised for the comments.

Mr McDonnell also hung a plaque commemorating IRA and INLA hunger strikers, including Bobby Sands, in his London constituency office.

He accepted he had been "part of the problem" in the past.

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