UUP conference: Coaker dissociates himself from Corbyn on IRA

Vernon Coaker was warmly received by UUP delegates for his remarks
Vernon Coaker was warmly received by UUP delegates for his remarks

Labour Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker went out of his way to distance himself from past sympathetic comments about the IRA from Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Addressing the UUP conference on Saturday just five years after the party contested the 2010 general election in coalition with the Conservatives, Mr Coaker dissociated himself from the remarks by his leader and shadow chancellor.

Mr Coaker admitted that there would be “serious concerns about the position of the Labour Party”, but said he was there to “reassure” the UUP.

He was warmly received when he told delegates: “Let me be absolutely clear – I speak for Labour in Northern Ireland, and what I say is our policy, remains our policy and will be our policy.

“So, we are committed to honouring the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and all of the subsequent agreements.

“We believe in the maintenance of a bipartisan approach.

“And above all, we believe in the principle of consent. There can be no change to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland without the agreement of a majority of people in Northern Ireland.

“And let me also be clear that the primacy of the rule of law is paramount and that there can never be any justification for terrorism. That is what I have said ... No ifs, no buts, our policy remains the same and let that ring out from here today.”

Mr Coaker said that last week’s paramilitary report contained “some uncomfortable statements”.