Corbyn ‘on right side of history’ in his attitude to IRA, says Adams

Sinn Féin announces manifesto that focuses on designated status for NI during Brexit

Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill with party leader Gerry Adams and Michelle Gildernew during the launch of the Sinn Fein 2017 Westminster Manifesto in Co Tyrone. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill with party leader Gerry Adams and Michelle Gildernew during the launch of the Sinn Fein 2017 Westminster Manifesto in Co Tyrone. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was “on the right side of history” in his attitude to the IRA and Irish republicanism, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said.

However, Mr Adams, speaking at the announcement of Sinn Féin’s Westminster elections manifesto, said Mr Corbyn’s contribution “ was very modest, but it was fundamental also”.

“He recognised the rights of the people who voted for Sinn Féin. I think he was vindicated by subsequent events,” he said, defending Mr Corbyn against a slew of criticism in Britain.

On Sunday, Mr Corbyn refused to specifically and separately condemn IRA acts of violence, without also condemning other acts of violence during the Troubles.

Peace process

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, said she had recognised that dialogue had been necessary to advance the peace process: “He respected the [Sinn Féin] mandate when others did not,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has called for a referendum on Irish unity within five years.

Speaking in Dungannon, Co Tyrone on Monday, Ms O’Neill described the June 8th election as the “most important election of a lifetime”.

She said Sinn Féin hopes to capitalise on the huge gains it achieved in the March Assembly.

Then, it came just one seat short of the Democratic Unionist Party and less than 1,200 votes behind the main unionist party - the first time that has happened in Northern politics.

The March vote had been “ignored or failed to register” with the DUP, she said, arguing it had “activated a transformation in a way unimaginable to the founders of the Northern state”.

“There is no doubt that this will be a groundbreaking election for Sinn Féin. Irish unity is now firmly on the agenda,” she said.

Restoration of Executive

Mr Adams said DUP leader Arlene Foster, in joining in the chorus of condemnation of Mr Corbyn, was “lending herself to this distraction”.

Ms O’Neill said Sinn Féin wanted to see the Northern Executive and Assembly restored.

“We want the Executive to work but it has to be a good Executive,” she said. On the prospects of Sinn Féin and the DUP agreeing a deal after the election, she said, “We could deal with this in one day if the right political will is there.”

Ms O’Neill said the election was about “no Brexit, no Border, no Tory cuts”. She insisted that Sinn Féin’s call for special designated status for Northern Ireland within the EU notwithstanding the overall UK Brexit vote was achievable.

She also reiterated the demand for an Irish language Act.

“We have to fight back against the reckless and dangerous policies of the self-serving Tory government in London, which is about forcing a disastrous Brexit on the North and dragging us against our will from the EU,” she said.

“Everyone here knows the impact that will have on our business, trade, agri-food, tourism and other sectors of the economy, with the imposition of trade tariffs, a border and denying people the freedom of movement North and South. It will severely undermine the progress of the past 20 years,” she added.

Designated status

“It is possible for the North to stay in the EU through designated special status and I and other senior leadership have been on a diplomatic offensive arguing this case among the EU27 who will determine the British exit terms from the EU,” said Ms O’Neill.

“We can make it absolutely clear that we want unity and prosperity on this island with no borders whatsoever - hard or soft.”

Ms O’Neill said that people would “not tolerate inequality and discrimination or second class citizenship for anyone – women, LGBT, Irish speakers, ethnic minorities – because an attack on one, is an attack on us all.

“The people want fairness and equality. They want Irish unity. And that’s the message we need to send at this forthcoming Westminster election on June 8th.”

Sinn Féin manifesto main points:

• Irish unity referendum within 5 years.

• Special status for Northern Ireland within EU.

• Irish Language Act.

• Same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

• Protection of CAP payments for farmers.

• Bill of Rights for North.

• Greater investment in health and education.

• Special all-Ireland economic strategy in wake of Brexit.