Belfast Telegraph

Home News Politics

Fury over claims McDonnell joked that councillors who refused to meet SF should be kneecapped

By Noel McAdam

Angry unionists have insisted Labour's John McDonnell is "unfit for office" following remarks that councillors who refused to meet Sinn Fein should be kneecapped.

The Shadow Chancellor also allegedly suggested the "ballot, bullet and bomb" would unite Ireland in articles published during the IRA's terrorist campaign.

They were reported in an English local newspaper, the Deptford and Peckham Mercury, which covered a public meeting in a pub in New Cross, south London in 1986 - eight years before the IRA's first ceasefire in 1994.

The report said: "Mr McDonnell went on to describe the Lewisham Labour councillors who had boycotted the meeting as 'gutless wimps' and joked that kneecapping might help to change their minds."

The MP told the Times newspaper his remarks had been taken out of context, but the reporter, Roger Goode, argued he would have been sacked if he had been guilty of such misconduct.

Mr McDonnell has also insisted this week that his decision to quote from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book and throw a copy towards Chancellor George Osborne during the Spending Review announcement in the House of Commons was also a joke.

But his and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's past links with republicans have already come in for fierce criticism from unionists across Northern Ireland.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds, who is likely to become party leader when Peter Robinson stands down in the next few weeks, yesterday called the latest remarks as "sick and disgusting" as when they were first made.

He said it provided a further insight into the radical mindset of the current Labour leadership, with "little difference" between the terrorist mindset which justified the bombing of the La Mon Hotel in 1978 and the Islamist terrorists who brought havoc to Paris.

"If McDonnell thinks Provisional IRA terrorism was something to be joked about, then he should visit some of the victims in my constituency who today live with an empty chair or still bear the physical scars of the Provisional IRA's brutal and barbaric campaign," the North Belfast MP said.

Mr Dodds added that Mr McDonnell's apologies over pro-PIRA comments in the past had been undermined, and he told the Labour man support for the Union had "never been stronger".

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott also criticised the Shadow Chancellor, saying: "On Wednesday, John McDonnell was quoting from Mao's Little Red Book. Now it looks like the Shadow Chancellor has also been taking direction from the IRA's Green Book.

"McDonnell's irrational outbursts from his past and present do further harm to the office that he holds and heap derision on a once proud Labour Party. He is clearly unfit to hold high office in a democratic society.

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Vernon Coaker also dissociated himself from Mr McDonnell's views as reported in The Times.

But a spokesman for Mr McDonnell said: "John has no recollection of making these remarks. The quote is clearly taken out of context - John rejects all forms of violence and has done so all his political career."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph