John McDonnell: I'm a republican and long for a united Ireland

Posted On: 
17th October 2018

John McDonnell has admitted he "longs for a united Ireland" but insisted it should not happen as a result of a botched Brexit.

John McDonnell John McDonnell is a long-standing supporter of Irish republicanism
Credit: 
PA Images

In comments which are sure to infuriate the DUP, the Shadow Chancellor said he was a "republican" and wanted to see an end to partition in Ireland after nearly a century.

However, he said it should only happen if a majority of people in Northern Ireland support it.

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Mr McDonnell also paid tribute to Tony Blair's efforts in bringing peace to the province - and joked about joining the Orange Order if it meant being able to agree a post-election pact with the Northern Irish unionist party.

Speaking at a lunch in Parliament, he said: "You know my background, I'm a republican. I long for a united Ireland but I recognise democracy and Ireland will not be reunited on the basis of some contortions around the relationship with the EU. It will only be reunited on the basis of the popular support of the Irish people. 

"One of the concerns that we've got all the way through is that nothing in these (Brexit) discussions should in any way cause any damage to the Good Friday Agreement and its implementation, which I think was a huge achievement.

"I say this about Tony Blair. I was a critic of his on Iraq and a whole range of other issues, but if he'd have stopped at Northern Ireland he'd have gone down in history as one of the most significant Prime Ministers in our history, to bring about peace in Northern Ireland in that way was a huge achievement and I'll always respect him for that."

The Shadow Chancellor added: "There will be some curious relationships that come out of a general election. If I can get my application in for the Orange Order and order my bowler hat and sash for the marching season, you never know."

His comments are significant because the DUP are threatening to vote against the Budget over Theresa May's Brexit plans - a move which could trigger a general election and usher in a Labour government.

However, the prospect of an administration which could push for a unified Ireland could make them think again.

Mr McDonnell told the lunch that Labour could be in government "within months" if the ongoing Brexit turmoil brings down the Prime Minister.

"This is not a government going out with a bang, but going out with a whisper," he said.

PEOPLE'S VOTE

The Shadow Chancellor also gave the clearest hint yet that Labour could end up supporting another EU referendum if Mrs May is unable to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.

He said: "If a deal comes back that protects jobs then yes we'll support it. If it doesn't, we will vote against and we'll call for a general election.

"If there isn't a general election, we'll have a fall back position and there might well be a people's vote of some sort."