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Corbyn chose IRA bombers over peacemakers of SDLP, claims Scottish Tory Davidson

By Noel McAdam

Jeremy Corbyn has come under the spotlight again over his past links with Irish republicans as the Labour leadership contest enters a crucial phase.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said it was "unforgivable" that the Labour leader had "walked past the people" trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

She said Mr Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell "could have backed the SDLP", which Labour regards as its 'sister party' in the province.

Her interview in the Sunday Express also echoed an earlier article in June in which she said when she looks at Mr McDonnell she sees "a man that wanted the IRA to win".

Yesterday Ms Davison, who served as a Signaller in the Territorial Army from 2003 to 2006, accused Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell of "siding with terrorists" against British soldiers.

They had "walked past the people who were trying to solve peace in Northern Ireland and went straight to the guys wearing balaclavas that were setting off bombs and shooting people".

She added: "During the 80s and 90s they could have backed the SDLP.

"There were people who were democratically looking for change there and yet they went straight to the guys who were setting off bombs and decided they were going to side with the terrorists against the British Army, saying we won't stand up for our own country."

Since his election Mr Corbyn has faced strong criticism for bringing members of the IRA to the House of Commons during the 1980s.

But he has insisted those he invited were former prisoners who had completed their sentences and his aim all along had been to open dialogue and reach a political solution.

"Yes, I did make myself very unpopular with some people by a preparedness to reach out to the Republican tradition in Ireland, to say ultimately this war is unwinnable by either side, there is never going to be a military (answer) - therefore there has to be a political dialogue," Mr Corbyn said.

"At the same time, secretly, the British government was also engaged in that and then eventually in 1994 we got the first ceasefire."

Asked if he was less critical of IRA violence than British military action, Mr Corbyn said: "The violence was wrong on all sides and I have said so all along.

"My whole point was if we are to bring about a peace process, you weren't going to achieve it by military means."

Between 1986 and 1992, Mr Corbyn attended and spoke at an annual London commemoration event for the IRA hunger strikers.

In 2004 Mr McDonnell was given a special award from Sinn Fein for the "unfailing political and personal support he has given to the republican community."

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