John McDonnell: I did everything I could to secure peace in Northern Ireland

Posted On: 
19th May 2017

John McDonnell has claimed he did "everything I possibly could to secure the peace process in Northern Ireland" as he apologised again for praising the IRA.

John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey at a Labour press conference this morning
PA Images

The Shadow Chancellor provoked anger when comments he made at an event in 2003 remembering the death of hunger striker Bobby Sands re-emerged two years ago.

Mr McDonnell 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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"The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process."

His comments were widely condemned - forcing the veteran Labour MP to apologise on the BBC's Question Time.

At a press conference in London this morning at which Mr McDonnell said Labour would stand up for Britain's pensioners, he was asked what he would say to those who remember the IRA's bombing campaign and his support for it.

He said: "I apologise for those words, but I also said no cause is worth an innocent life and I made that explicitly clear. I also did everything I possibly could to secure the peace process in Northern Ireland and at times that was contentious, of course.

"We were trying to talk to people you were condemned for talking to, then we discovered that governments were talking to them anyway.

"So I've apologised for my language, but I made it absolutely clear that everything I did was about securing peace and no innocent life lost is worth it."

Asked if he still thinks the peace process was down to the actions of the IRA, Mr McDonnell said: "I think the peace process was as a result of a dialogue that many undertook, and if I contributed in any small way I was pleased to do so. But I apologise for the language that I used. No cause is worth the loss of an innocent life."