Diane Abbott: Corbyn met IRA members 'in their capacity as Sinn Fein activists'

Posted On: 
27th May 2017

Jeremy Corbyn only met IRA members "in their capacity as activists in Sinn Fein", Diane Abbott has claimed.

Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn at Labour's manifesto launch

The Shadow Home Secretary's remarks appeared to contradict Mr Corbyn's assertion yesterday that he had never met with the Republican terrorist group. 

The Labour leader has come under fire for his past association with militant Republicans, including inviting convicted IRA terrorists to the House of Commons just weeks after the Brighton bombing in 1984.

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In an interview on the BBC last night, Mr Corbyn insisted he had "never met the IRA" and had done his best to help negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. 


But this morning Ms Abbott appeared to contradict that assertion, telling LBC radio: "I think that his understanding is he met with them in their capacity as activists in Sinn Fein."

She also claimed there was a difference between Mr Corbyn sharing a platform with convicted terrorists such as Brendan McKenna, and meeting people privately. 

"I think we have to distinguish between conducting private meetings and supporting violent attacks and actually being on a platform," she argued.

And she compared Mr Corbyn's links with the Republican movement to the way Tony Blair had had to reach out to Sinn Fein during the Good Friday Agreement.

"Bear in mind that Tony Blair met on very many occasions with people who were involved in Sinn Fein and people who may have known about terror attacks, but that's what he had to do to bring about the peace process," she said.  

And she distanced herself from her comments in a 1984 interview about Northern Ireland, where she said "every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us".

"What does it indicate? It was 34 years ago. A few years later I became an MP.

"I have moved on in the intervening 34 years but if you want to demonstrate that I am in favour of atrocities and violence and terrorism you're going about it [interrupted]...I'm saying that it's 34 years ago, you've moved on from 34 years ago and so have I." 


Mr Corbyn - who has seen Labour enjoy a surge in support which has seen the party close the gap on the Conservatives as polling day approaches - has come under pressure to denounce his associations with the likes of Gerry Adams during the IRA's bombing campaign.

Asked why the British people should vote for a man who supported the IRA to be Prime Minister, he told the BBC yesterday: "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. We went through all the horrors of Northern Ireland from the – all through the ‘70s and ‘80s, through the period of the Troubles, and eventually came from that a peace process, the Good Friday Agreement, and now relative peace and stability."

Mr Corbyn also defended the time he stood for a minute's silence at an event commemorating the deaths of eight IRA members, insisting he had done so for all those who had died in the Troubles.

"I never met the IRA," he said: "I obviously did meet people from Sinn Fein 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."