“I wish people would stop dragging up the business of Jeremy Corbyn and his links with the IRA,” said an acquaintance last week. “It was a very long time ago and people are using it as a stick with which to beat him in the general election campaign.” The obvious answer is that, yes, people are using it as a stick with which to beat him because it remains important. The man seeking to become prime minister was a supporter of the murderous IRA and probably still is.
Interviewed by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Corbyn repeatedly refused to condemn the IRA. He condemned all bombing. So, do you specifically condemn the IRA? He wouldn’t answer, he would not answer. Why would you not condemn someone, unless of course you actually supported them?
Corbyn’s apologists tell me that he was a great campaigner for peace in Ireland. That’s why from 1986 to 1992, Corbyn spoke annually at Sands/Connolly (Bobby and James) commemorations in London to show support for IRA “prisoners of war” and remember the IRA dead. That’s why in 1986 he was arrested for obstruction at a Troops Out rally outside the Old Bailey, called “to show solidarity with the Irish republican prisoners put on trial by the British State”, one of whom was Patrick Magee, the Brighton bomber. That’s why a few weeks after the 1983 Harrods bombing that killed six people, Mr Corbyn flew to Northern Ireland to meet Danny Morrison, famous for having asked a Sinn Fein ard fheis in 1981: “Will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in one hand and an Armalite in this hand, we take power in Ireland?”
If Corbyn was a “great campaigner for peace in Ireland”, on whose behalf was he carrying out this work? The British and Irish governments who, throughout the years, had maintained links with Sinn Fein and the IRA in an attempt to bring an end to the troubles. Governments, including Thatcher’s, despatched civil servants to see whether peace was possible and what would be required to help bring it about. Am I uneasy with this? Yes, but I can totally understand it. Whatever the motives of the IRA, you cannot excuse the many murders but eventually all conflicts come to an end by making contacts and then negotiating. What was Corbyn doing?
Corbyn was posing and posturing. And if he was not offering tacit support for the IRA, then what exactly was he doing? Was he meeting unionists too and if so, again, on behalf of whom exactly? It is blindingly obvious that Corbyn approached the troubles from the side of the nationalists and not only that the nationalist terrorists.
Corbyn’s ally and former lover Diane Abbott, whose political views cannot be separated from Corbyn’s by so much as a fag paper, described the Ulster Unionists as an “enclave of white supremacist ideology”. Corbyn’s Marxist Leninist ally, the odious John McDonnell said in 2003, “It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. The peace we now have is due to the action of the IRA.” Corbyn and the comrades are anything but men and women of peace.
The Irish writer and broadcaster Ruth Dudley Edwards wrote: “Throughout his adult life, (Jeremy) Corbyn has supported pretty well any revolutionaries as long as they’re anti-American, but the IRA – unlike his country’s forces of law, order and defence – has a special place in his heart.”
Even though this stuff was some years ago, it still matters because when it comes to choosing the next prime minister the electorate looks at character, it looks at judgment and it looks at whether those applying for the job are fit and proper people. Quite apart from being utterly unsuited to the job of leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn’s character and judgment has always been suspect and still is.
Yes, I am biased because I have friends in Northern Ireland whose lives were blighted by terrorism and can never forgive the activities of the “provos”. I know the old adage that yesterday’s terrorist is tomorrow’s freedom fighter, but Corbyn was friends with the provos when they were murdering people in cold blood. That’s why people keep “dragging up the business of Jeremy Corbyn and his links with the IRA”. And that’s why Corbyn’s failure to condemn the IRA is still relevant today.