McDonnell 'joked' councillors should be kneecapped for not meeting IRA

Posted On: 
27th November 2015

Labour councillors who refused to meet the IRA's political wing should have had their knee-caps shot, John McDonnell apparently once joked.

The now Shadow Chancellor also called for the “ballot, the bullet and the bomb” to be used to unite Ireland at the height of the Republicans' terror campaign, according to the Times.

The report comes after Mr McDonnell was ridiculed on Wednesday when he he read from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book in the Commons in an attempted attack on George Osborne.

Mr McDonnell argued it was a joke, and insisted the stunt had worked as it placed his point about the Chancellor selling state assets off to China on the news agenda.

He made the comments about the IRA at a 100-strong meeting at pub in New Cross in 1989.

A newspaper report from the time read: “Mr McDonnell went on to describe the Lewisham Labour councillors who had boycotted the meeting as ‘gutless wimps’ and joked that knee-capping might help to change their minds.”


A spokesperson for Mr McDonnell told the Times he has “no recollection of making these remarks”.

“The quote is clearly taken out of context — John rejects all forms of violence and has done so all his political career,” the spokesperson added.

“The approaches to Sinn Fein and the delegation were organised and publicised extensively at the time to commence the process of initiating a dialogue to secure a peace settlement.

“And we now know that behind the scenes the then government was also communicating with republicans with the same objective.”

“John has also been a longstanding campaigner for peace in Northern Ireland and advocated speaking to Sinn Fein as part of a peace process long before it became accepted practice.”


In September Mr McDonnell was forced to apologise for having said in 2003 that members of the IRA should be “honoured”.

"What I tried to do for both sides is to give them a way out with some form of dignity otherwise they wouldn't lay their arms down,” he told the BBC's Question Time.

"And can I just say this, because this has been raised with me time and time again - I accept it was a mistake to use those words, but actually if it contributed towards saving one life, or preventing someone else being maimed it was worth doing, because we did hold on to the peace process.

"There was a real risk of the republican movement splitting and some of them continuing the armed process. If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise, I apologise."