Jeremy Corbyn says unionists and republicans must get credit for NI peace

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps feeling liberated by low expectations, has looked increasingly assured during the campaign

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps feeling liberated by low expectations, has looked increasingly assured during the campaign

Jeremy Corbyn insisted credit should be given to all unionists and republicans who helped deliver peace in Northern Ireland, as he denied speaking to the IRA.

The Labour leader sought to put the focus on the efforts to deliver peace within the region when again pressed on his links with the republican terror group.

He acknowledged he met former prisoners although said they informed him they were not in the IRA, adding such talks were on the basis of trying to develop a peace process in Northern Ireland.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly faced questions about his views on the IRA as he bids to become prime minister at the June 8 General Election.

Appearing on ITV’s Peston On Sunday, Mr Corbyn said: “ I have not spoken to the IRA. I have in the past and still do often meet people from Sinn Fein.”

Asked if he had met former convicted IRA terrorists, Mr Corbyn said: “I have met former prisoners who have told me they were not in the IRA.

“But I have met former prisoners with my eyes open on it on the basis there had to be a development of a peace process in Northern Ireland, and I think we should look at the awful period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the attempt to get a military solution to those problems as something we all learn a lesson from.

“Surely the two ceasefires followed by the Good Friday Agreement and the acceptance of the differing historical traditions between the nationalist and unionist communities in Ireland is something that has brought about a long-term peace, which the rest of the world has learnt many lessons.

“Surely we could give credit to all those - unionists and republicans - who brought that about.”

Mr Corbyn was later asked how peace could be reached in Syria if - unlike the IRA - the UK cannot talk to terror group Islamic State, also referred to as Isis.

Mr Corbyn replied: “If we don’t bring about a ceasefire in Syria between the various warring factions - some of which are nearer to Isis than others, some of which are very pro-West and some of which are Syrian government, some of which are pro-Russian - there has to be a peace process.

“There also has to be a serious question mark about where Isis gets its funds from, where it sells its oil to, where it gets its arms from and look at those connections all across the region.”

Mr Corbyn, questioned if the UK was right to allow the parents of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi into the country given what is now known about him, said: “If they had a case for humanitarian protection or for asylum on the basis of being under threat of social, religious or political persecution, yes.

“Are we right to monitor and examine such people’s views? Yes. Whether that happened with his parents, I don’t know - that will no doubt come out of an investigation.

“But I think we should be clear that under the 1951 convention we have a clear obligation to take people who are under serious threat - that was the whole point about it.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon defended Mr Corbyn after reports resurfaced of him characterising the beheading of Briton Alan Henning by Islamic State as “the price of jingoism”.

The Sunday Times reported that the Labour leader told a Stop The War rally in 2014, the day after the murder of Mr Henning, “I’m pleased that we started with a period of silence for Alan Henning . . . because we have to remember that the price of war, the price of intervention, the price of jingoism, is somebody else’s son, and somebody else’s daughter, being killed.”

Asked about the remarks on BBC One’s Sunday Politics, Mr Burgon said: “Well, at the beginning of that speech by Jeremy Corbyn he mentioned the importance of the one-minute silence for the memory of Alan Henning who was so cruelly and unforgivably murdered.

“What Jeremy Corbyn’s also made clear is that responsibility for acts of terrorism and murder lies with the murderer.”