EXCL Arlene Foster condemns John McDonnell's 'horrific' IRA comments

Posted On: 
4th October 2016

Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster has hit out at John McDonnell's "horrific" praise for the IRA in the past.

Arlene Foster has hit out at John McDonnell
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Chancellor once called for members of the Republican terror group who died during the Troubles to be "honoured".

Speaking in 2003, he said: "It's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table."

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He has since apologised, claiming he had merely been trying to keep the peace process on track.

Mr McDonnell has also been accused of telling a meeting in London in 1989 that the "ballot, the bullet and the bomb" should be used to unite Ireland. His spokesman has said he has "no recollection" of making the remarks.

At a fringe event at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, DUP leader Ms Foster - who held talks with Theresa May this morning - said she did not have "any relationship with Jeremy Corbyn".

She added: "I certainly don't have any relationship with his Chancellor either, who has made some horrific comments in the past about Northern Ireland and I don't know how that will work in the future.

"Obviously some of my parliamentary colleagues are here, I leave it up to them to say how they work with the Labour party.

"But the Labour party has transformed in a way that I think is very regrettable for the people of the United Kingdom and it will be a long time before there's a Labour government in place again."

BREXIT

​Ms Foster also took a swipe at John Major and Tony Blair for their "ill-advised" attempt to persuade voters in Northern Ireland to reject Brexit.

The pair made a joint appearance in Northern Ireland shortly before the 23 June referendum warning that a vote to leave would "jeapordise the unity" of the UK and put Northern Ireland's future at risk.

The first minister said: "Whoever advised John Major and Tony Blair to come to our second city in Londonderry and make that speech, it was very, very bad advice.

"I certainly know that speaking to a lot of people, particularly unionists, they were outraged by their visit. They came along and said the peace process was going to be ripped apart by the very fact that we were leaving the European Union institutions. I've always said that we haven't left Europe, we have left the European Union institutions.

"To suggest that somehow people like myself and others who have worked for so many years to have a political process in Northern Ireland, that all of a sudden because we decided as a nation to leave the European Union that the peace process was going to fall apart, clearly did not have an understanding of what people were doing in Northern Ireland.

"For two people who were closely involved in Northern Ireland, it was hugely disappointing."

PACT

Ms Foster also dropped a huge hint that her party's eight MPs will give their support to the Conservatives in knife-edge Commons votes, helping to increase the Government's slim majority.

She said the DUP would back Theresa May over Brexit and her plans to expand grammar schools, and would work with the Conservatives in other areas as well.

"I have said I will do whatever is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland," Ms Foster said. "That has always been my mantra and if that means working closely with the Government, so be it.

"It's not a small 'p' pact. What we're doing is what's right for Northern Ireland, talking to the Government and making sure the Prime Minister is aware of what the issues are in terms of Northern Ireland."