Corbyn flies into criticism over Irish unity remarks

Jeremy Corbyn flies into Belfast today against a backdrop of renewed unionist concern about his support for a united Ireland after his official spokesman said that the Labour leader believes that across Ireland there is a majority support for Irish unity.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 24th May 2018, 8:59 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:47 am

The Labour leader, whose decades-long links to Sinn Fein have alarmed unionists, will spend two days in Northern Ireland, delivering a speech in Belfast and then travelling to Londonderry, a key border city which will be directly impacted by the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

However, comments from Mr Corbyn’s official spokesman were last night criticised by senior DUP figure Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as evidence that Mr Corbyn was “chasing moonbeams”.

When pressed on Mr Corbyn’s views on Irish reunification, the Labour leader’s official spokesman said: “Over the years he has made his position clear that the majority of those people across the whole island of Ireland wanted to see that outcome, a united Ireland.

Jeremy Corbyn begins his two-day visit with a speech at Queens University

“But in the context of the Good Friday Agreement that can only come about through that constitutional process that is laid down in the agreement and Jeremy fully supports that.”

Since partition in 1921, it has been the case that a majority of people across the entire island would like to see reunification. However, under the Belfast Agreement it was accepted that Irish reunification could only happen if there was a majority in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

On Monday, an Ipsos MORI poll for academics at Queen’s University Belfast put support for Irish unity at 21%, with 50% supporting the Union, 19% unsure and 10% saying that they would not vote.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “It has been known for a long time that Jeremy Corbyn favours a united Ireland. Certainly he is no friend of unionism and no friend of the Union and so these comments come as no surprise ... there can be no united Ireland against the wishes of the majority in Northern Ireland.”

The Lagan Valley MP added that he would have liked to have heard “more constructive” comments from Mr Corbyn about how devolution can be restored and said that “all this talk is divisive”.

But Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard echoed Mr Corbyn’s words, saying: “There is a majority across the island of Ireland for a new agreed and united Ireland”, adding that “the debate on Irish unity is live and current in civic society”.