Adams defends Corbyn as Tories grow desperate


British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was “on the right side of history” in his attitude to the IRA and Irish republicanism, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said.

In exchanges reminiscent of McCarthy-era anti-communist witch-hunts in the US, Mr Corbyn and other Labour figures have been interrogated by the Tory media over their contacts with Sinn Fein.

Mr Adams, speaking at an election rally, said Mr Corbyn’s contribution “was very modest, but it was fundamental also”.

“He recognised the rights of the people who voted for Sinn Fein. I think he was vindicated by subsequent events,” he said.

A campaign of demonisation and marginalisation has been a mainstay of Irish politics for decades, but this has now translated into an attack against the leader of the Labour Party amid a surge in support for his party.

Mr Corbyn’s contacts with Sinn Fein over recent decades as part of peace efforts in the north of Ireland has been targeted by the Conservatives ahead of the Westminster general election on June 8.

The Tories have sought to depict Mr Corbyn as being “soft on terrorism”, even seeking to to scapegoat Mr Corbyn for the Islamist atrocity in Manchester on Monday night in which 22 people died in an attack on a pop concert.

Mr Adams said the Labour leader had respected Sinn Fein’s democratic mandate.

“He recognised the rights of the people who voted for Sinn Fein and I think he was vindicated by subsequent events,” he said. “Because where he led - others followed”, a reference to the subsequent contacts between Sinn Fein and British governments.

British Direct Ruler James Brokenshire had led the attacks with a speech on Jeremy Corbyn’s “IRA sympathies”. He accused the Labour leader and his party colleagues, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, of having “extremely worrying views” about the IRA. He claimed Mr Corbyn had a “long political career of sympathy for the IRA cause”.

DUP leader Arlene Foster joined in, and said Mr Corbyn’s recent refusals to single out the IRA for condemnation was “abhorrent”.

In a highly publicised speech on the issue in London on Monday, she said: “I think he has put himself outside the political pale - I think it is abhorrent he seems to be caught up with the perpetrators of violence without any thought for those of us who were victims of the IRA violence through the Troubles.”

The Labour leader had said “all bombing is wrong”, as he was repeatedly asked by journalists to single out the IRA for condemnation. is response was interpreted in the Tory media as further evidence of his secret support for the Irish republican armed struggle.

But Mr Adams said Ms Foster was fuelling a “distraction”.

He said: “If Arlene Foster is lending herself to that complete distraction then she is trying to divert attention away from her party’s support for an English Brexit, when she should be acknowledging the vote of the people here in the north and standing up for their rights.”

On Friday night, Mr Corbyn again defended his record of contacts with Sinn Fein and again denied that he supported the IRA.

The Labour leader told the Andrew Neil Interviews on the BBC that all his engagement on the issue was in pursuit of peace.

“I didn’t support the IRA. I don’t support the IRA. What I want everywhere is a peace process. What I want everywhere is decency and human rights,” he said.

Mr Corbyn said that he had attended commemorations for victims on both sides of the conflict, for IRA fighters as well as the British military. He said he had always argued that the IRA’s bombing campaign would not work.

“I never met the IRA. I obviously did meet people from Sinn Fein as indeed I met people from other organisations, and I always made the point that there had to be a dialogue and a peace process,” he said.

He also defended his record against oppressive “anti-terrorist” legislation in the House of Commons.

“The British government at that time was putting a broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein, a travel ban on Sinn Fein and a series of anti-terror legislations which were not really doing anything to bring about fair convictions.

“Remember I was also constituency MP for one of the Guildford Four, Paul Hill, who was the first person arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and eventually was freed,” he said.

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