The head of the Ulster Unionists has described a meeting with the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “useful”.
Mr Corbyn, who has previously declared his support for ending the partition of Ireland, was said to have affirmed his acceptance of the Province’s right to self-determination.
The meeting took place in Westminster today (Monday).
The party also said it would “look forward” to the veteran left-wing MP paying a visit to Northern Ireland, adding that such a visit may contribute to “broadening the understanding” he has of the fall-out from the Troubles.
After the meeting, a UUP statement was issued which read in full: “It has been a very long time since Jeremy Corbyn met a unionist leader – far too long!
No-one is going to put unionism’s position for us, so we have to engage, even with political opponents who see our future differently.
“In that regard it was useful to hear him affirm he accepts the consent principle that leaves the constitutional issue in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland alone.
“I sensed a shared passion for improving mental health and wellbeing provision and took the opportunity to brief him on Northern Ireland’s specific problems.
“I presented him with a copy of our recent policy document and invited him to come to Northern Ireland to meet some of the victims and survivors of the Troubles whose lives are blighted by poor mental health issues.
“We also discussed the need for reform of our devolved institutions to create efficient and effective government structures. He seemed genuinely unaware and shocked that OFMdFM had failed so badly with the Social Investment Fund, spending less than two per cent of the £80m they had earmarked for poverty in the promised timeframe, or that the departmental spending on childcare was also well short of budget.
“I look forward to the Labour Leader coming to Northern Ireland to meet some who suffer poor mental health and hopefully as a consequence broadening the understanding of the toxic legacy of our Troubles.”
For more on Mr Corbyn’s past statements on republicanism, see this investigation by the News Letter.