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IRA victims welcome 'first step' of talks with Labour shadow secretary

By Allan Prston

Victims of IRA violence have welcomed their meeting with the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Tony Lloyd.

The Labour Party had been under growing pressure to host such an event since its leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the province last month.

Members of Innocent Victims United - which represents 23 groups and has a membership of 11,500 - attended the meeting with Mr Lloyd (right) along with DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

Mr Campbell called it a "useful discussion" but said it was still disappointing that Mr Corbyn had not made the time to meet victims during his recent visit here.

The Labour Party has repeatedly stated this was a scheduling issue and not a deliberate snub.

"I hope this can be the first step to greater engagement by the Labour Party with the victims of terrorism," said Mr Campbell.

"As we seek to deal with issues on the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland, the voice of victims must be central to that process. There must be a clear distinction between terrorists and those who suffered at their hands."

He added: "Given Jeremy Corbyn's past statements and his close association with republicans, there is an obvious unease amongst many victims about the Labour Party's position on terrorism."

During the 1980s and 1990s Mr Corbyn held meetings with Sinn Fein which were seen as controversial at the time as the Provisional IRA's campaign of terror was continuing.

He has always said his intention was to work towards achieving an end to the conflict.

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, welcomed the meeting with Mr Lloyd but said it was only a "first step" and that the real test would be for Mr Corbyn to meet with them.

"This meeting (with Mr Lloyd) follows several years of requests made by Innocent Victims United, South East Fermanagh Foundation, Derg Valley Victims Voice, politicians and many others, and the person actually sought after, Jeremy Corbyn, was of course not the person to come."

Mr Donaldson also claimed the Irish Government had questions to answer for failures along the border in protecting life, preventing attacks being launched from the Republic and not extraditing terror suspects.

Among the delegation to meet Mr Lloyd was David Kelly, whose father Patrick, a private with the Irish Defence Forces, was murdered by the IRA alongside a young Garda recruit when attempting to rescue prominent businessman Don Tidey, who had been kidnapped for ransom.

"I appreciated the opportunity to advise Mr Lloyd of my family's story. I am not a citizen of the United Kingdom but my family know too well the impact of Provisional IRA terrorism," he said.

Shelley Cummings from Castlederg lost her brother Kenneth Smyth and uncle Lexie Cummings. She said families of victims of the IRA were deeply concerned the Labour leadership had become apologists for terrorism. "Our loved ones were stolen from us by those who sought to coerce the people into accepting their warped united Ireland," she said.

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