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Corbyn ‘bad’ for Northern Ireland and ruining his own party, says Labour peer Blood

By Lisa Smyth

Baroness May Blood has launched a stinging attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as she stands down from the House of Lords.

Baroness Blood, who is president of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, said Mr Corbyn is not interested in what happens here and is helping to destroy his own party.

The 80-year-old peer said Mr Corbyn is "not good news" for Northern Ireland and criticised him for not meeting with Labour NI when he visited in May.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday News programme, she also called on Mr Corbyn to change Labour's ban on members in Northern Ireland standing in elections. People here have been allowed to join the Labour Party since 2003, but cannot stand as candidates.

A review into that matter is in its final stages and an outcome is expected in the autumn at Labour's annual conference.

Mr Corbyn was in Belfast in May for his first official visit as leader, where he restated his support for a united Ireland.

A prominent and long-time republican supporter, his views have sometimes placed him at odds with official party policy.

Pressed on Mr Corbyn's opinions on Irish unity, his official spokesman said: "Over the years he has made his position clear that the majority of those people across the whole island of Ireland wanted to see that outcome, a united Ireland.

"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."

Commenting on the possibility of a poll on Irish reunification, Mr Corbyn said: "That will be a decision that could be made within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

"And if that is the wish, then clearly such a poll would happen. I'm not asking for it, I'm not advocating it."

Despite her harsh words for Mr Corbyn, Baroness Blood - who was the first woman from Northern Ireland to be given a peerage in 1999 - said he had done more work to bring various splits within the party back together.

"When I went into the House of Lords, in the Labour Party it was all the Tony Blair or the Gordon Brown camp," she said.

"I always believed Labour should be a whole, in that fact Corbyn has brought them together, but it's ... mostly young people.

"When I was raised, Labour was bread and butter politics in my household.

"But Jeremy Corbyn doesn't talk that language to me."

Touching on the current political stalemate at Stormont, she also said she had been asked to sit on an advisory board for a planned People's Assembly.

She said that such an organisation would be more important than ever given the lack of a functioning Assembly.

"There is very valuable community work being done in Northern Ireland that is being stifled with no funds, because there is no one up there (at Stormont) to sign money off," she said.

"There's money being granted, but it can't be given (out) because it can't be signed off by anybody.

"That's not right."

She said she found the House of Lords a "strange" place when she first attended and said she felt out of place due to her working class background.

"In the first year, I was a bit lonely, but then I decided I had to go in and make it work for the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

"I made myself a promise that if I survived it, I would stay until I was 80."

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