Jeremy Corbyn: 'I didn’t support the IRA. I don’t support the IRA'

UK Labour leader tells BBC his engagement with Northern Ireland was to promote peace

Jeremy Corbyn arrives for a general election campaign speech in central London on Friday. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn arrives for a general election campaign speech in central London on Friday. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

 

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his record of support for Sinn Féin and denied that he supported the IRA or honoured republican violence. The Labour leader told the Andrew Neil Interviews on the BBC on Friday night that all his engagement with Northern Ireland was in pursuit of peace.

“I didn’t support the IRA. I don’t support the IRA. What I want everywhere is a peace process. What I want everywhere is decency and human rights,” he said.

Mr Corbyn said that, when he attended a commemoration for IRA members killed by the British Army, his intention was to honour all the victims of violence. And he said he had always argued that the IRA’s bombing campaign would not work.

“I never met the IRA. I obviously did meet people from Sinn Féin as indeed I met people from other organisations, and I always made the point that there had to be a dialogue and a peace process,” he said.

He also defended his record of opposition to most anti-terrorist legislation in the House of Commons, pointing out that Brexit secretary David Davis often joined him in voting against measures which infringed individual liberty.

Corbyn interview with Andrew Neil

Guilford Four

“The British government at that time was putting a broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin, a travel ban on Sinn Féin and a series of anti-terror legislations which were not really doing anything to bring about fair convictions. Remember I was also constituency MP for one of the Guildford Four, Paul Hill, who was the first person arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and eventually was freed,” he said.

Earlier, as general election campaigning resumed for the first time since the Manchester Arena bombing on Monday, Mr Corbyn linked Britain’s military interventions abroad with terrorist attacks such as that in Manchester. In a speech in London, the Labour leader said he would reverse cuts to policing numbers and boost funding for the security services.

“We will also change what we do abroad. Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home. That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions,” he said.

Network

Britain’s most senior counterterrorism officer said on Friday he believes police have arrested a large part of the network behind Monday’s bomb attack. Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said the security threat level remained critical because there was still some uncertainty about the extent of the network.

“We need to grow our confidence that we’ve got every component of the network and we have got as full an understanding as possible as to how the device was constructed and whether there is any more remaining risk,” he said.

“Having made significant arrests and significant finds, there still remain important lines of inquiry for us to pursue. Of course, we have got to try and understand everything we can about the dead terrorist, his associates, the whole network and how they acquired and built the bomb that exploded on Monday night.”

Mr Rowley said the investigation was focused on understanding the life of Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people in the attack. He said there would be more armed police on the streets and at key places during the weekend, which is a holiday weekend in Britain. Police have reviewed security at more than 1,300 events, including the FA Cup final at Wembley and the rugby premiership final at Twickenham.