MP claims new anti-terror plans would have seen John McDonnell prosecuted for IRA comments

Posted On: 
11th June 2018

John McDonnell would have been prosecuted for comments he made praising the IRA if new government anti-terror measures had been in place at the time, an MP has claimed.

John McDonnell apologised for his remarks about the IRA.
PA Images

John Woodcock said the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill would make it an offence for someone to encourage violence, even if they did not support a specific paramilitary group.

In 1986, Mr McDonnell told an event in New Cross, south east London, that "the ballot, the bullet and the bomb" would end British rule in Northern Ireland.

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Speaking in a Commons debate on the Government's bill, Mr Woodock - currently suspended from the Labour whip over claims he sexually harassed a female aide - said: "This is a really difficult subject to raise, but I am brought back to some of the remarks that have been made by members of the Labour benches in the past.

"The fact that we have the man who would be Chancellor of the United Kingdom apparently in 1986 having praised the ballot, the bomb and the bullet is deeply, deeply serious and if my understanding of the new legislation which is being brought forward is right, had that legislation been in place at the time which the honourable member apparently made those remarks, he would have been guilty of a terrorist offence.

"It is a serious matter in of itself, but how wide ranging these new powers could potentially be deserves great thought by members in the committee stage.”

At another event in London in 2003, Hayes and Harlington MP Mr McDonnell said: "It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of (IRA hunger striker) Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table.

"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." 

After becoming Shadow Chancellor in 2015, he said his remarks had been a "mistake" and added: "If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise, I apologise."