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John McDonnell defends plaque honouring IRA 'martyrs' in his office

John Ashmore

2 min read

John McDonnell has defended his decision to hang a plaque commemorating Irish republican "martyrs" in his constituency office.

The commemorative item honours the 10 IRA and INLA hunger strikers, who died in the Maze prison in County Down, Northern Ireland, in 1981.

It says it honours the memory of the 'H-Block Martyrs', and at the bottom is a quote from IRA volunteer Bobby Sands, who led the hunger strike, saying: "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children."

Among those whose names are inscribed on the plaque are Francis Hughes, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a British Army soldier in 1980.

Financial Times journalist Jim Pickard took a picture of the plaque during a recent interview of the Shadow Chancellor in his Hayes and Harlington constituency and posted it on Twitter.

The plaque was a gift to Mr McDonnell from Hayes Gaelic Club, and was presented to him in 2004 by convicted IRA bomber Gerry Kelly.

A spokesman for Mr McDonnell insisted he was not condoning the terrorist activities of the hunger strikers.

He said: "This was a gift to John for his work in promoting peaceful protests aimed at bringing both sides together during the Troubles.

"It merely commemorates the peaceful protest in prison, not the prior actions of those involved."

Mr McDonnell has previously apologised for saying that peace in Northern Ireland was achieved “because of the bravery of the IRA”, including the actions of Bobby Sands.

In the Financial Times interview, Mr McDonnell said: "I’ve always honestly and openly said I believe in a united Ireland, but the point was to try and get to a united Ireland without the violence."

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