Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Labour veteran says Corbyn fell short over anti-Semitism

By Victoria Leonard

Jeremy Corbyn could have handled the controversy over anti-Semitism within the Labour Party better, the former secretary of its Northern Ireland branch has said.

Kathryn Johnston quit the executive committee of Labour's local wing last year but remains a party member.

She said: "I don't think Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic in the slightest, but I do think he could have handled it better and it's now time he came out and clearly said where he stands."

It comes amid a deepening row over anti-Semitism in the party which has dogged Mr Corbyn for the past week.

The controversy erupted when Mr Corbyn was criticised for opposing the removal of an anti-Semitic mural in east London in 2012.

Other Northern Ireland Labour party members came to Mr Corbyn's defence.

The former chair of the party here, Phil Kelly, admitted it had been "a tough week".

"There have been examples of really horrible, toxic anti-Semitism, racism and homophobia in the Labour Party," he said.

"But they exist in all institutions.

"Labour needs to root this out robustly and I back Jeremy Corbyn to do this.

"I trust Jeremy Corbyn to get it right on anti-Semitism."

Fellow party member Dugald McCullough said "people shouldn't be in the Labour Party if they have anti-Semitic views".

Reflecting on Mr Corbyn's position, he added: "Jeremy Corbyn would be a supporter of people who are oppressed.

"These are complex situations. Some Jewish people suffer anti-Semitism and people who are Palestinians suffer in the state of Israel, and there is not one moral situation that equates those.

"The Labour Party stands against racism, sexism, sectarianism and anti-Semitism. Jeremy Corbyn is a very moral man.

"It's a misreading, it's like a smear."

Yesterday a Jewish member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee said she was "frustrated" with the pace of action in dealing with allegations of anti-Semitism.

But Rhea Wolfson said she expected the process to speed up with the arrival of new general secretary Jennie Formby, who has been told by Mr Corbyn to make the issue her number one priority.

Ex-Commons Speaker Lord Martin called for a special one-day conference of members to address the problem and demonstrate the party's abhorrence of anti-Semitism.

The former Labour MP said: "If you ran a restaurant, and it was dirty and there were cockroaches, you wouldn't get away with saying: 'The restaurant down the road is dirty and has cockroaches, too'. You would be expected to sort out the problem."

And new NEC member Eddie Izzard said: "We must make amends and repair the damage with the Jewish community as Jeremy Corbyn has promised to do."

Labour has moved to distance itself from a series of pro-Corbyn social media groups after an investigation by The Sunday Times found they contained hundreds of violent and abusive messages.

Mr Corbyn deleted his personal Facebook page.

Although his "official" page remains active.

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