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Corbyn faces fury as he backs united Ireland on visit to Belfast

Jeremy Corbyn tried to defuse anger over his backing for Irish unification today by insisting he would not force a referendum. 

Mr Corbyn insisted he was not ‘advocating’ the break-up of the UK as he made his first visit to Belfast since becoming leader.

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The comments came amid fury after the veteran left-winger reiterated his belief that Northern Ireland and the Republic should merge.

The intervention drew the wrath of MPs, who branded his views ‘anti-democratic’ and ‘defying the will of the people’.

Mr Corbyn used his trip today to call for a customs union with the EU and insist that the Good Friday Agreement must not be put at risk.

Mr Corbyn insisted he was not ‘advocating’ the break-up of the UK as he made his first visit to Belfast since becoming leader today

In 1984, a decade before the first IRA ceasefire, he met with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in London and, a year later, he opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement saying it strengthened rather than weakened the border

In 1984, a decade before the first IRA ceasefire, he met with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in London and, a year later, he opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement saying it strengthened rather than weakened the border

In a speech at Queen’s University, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Opposition to the idea of bringing back a hard border to this land isn’t just about avoiding paperwork or tariffs, it’s about deep-rooted cultural and community ties. 

‘An open border is a symbol of peace, two communities living and working together after years of conflict, communities who no longer feel that their traditions are under threat.’ 

Asked whether he would want a referendum on Irish unification if he became PM, Mr Corbyn said: ‘That would be a decision that could be made within the terms of the Good Friday agreement. 

‘If that is the wish, then clearly such a poll would happen. I’m not asking for it, I’m not advocating it. 

‘What I’m asking for is a return to the fullness of the Good Friday agreement which would open up the opportunities and possibilities for the future of Ireland as whole.’ 

Unionists have long been suspicious of Mr Corbyn because of his Republican sympathies.

The veteran left-winger invited two IRA members to parliament just weeks after the Brighton Bombing in 1984.

Ahead of his visit, a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: ‘He over the years made his position clear that the majority of of those people across the island of Ireland wanted to see a united Ireland, but in the context of the Good Friday Agreement that can only come about through the constitutional process.’

Labour MP accuses Jeremy Corbyn of wanting IRA ‘victory’ in Northern Ireland   

A Labour MP launched a searing attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s track record on Northern Ireland today – accusing him of campaigning for an IRA ‘victory’. 

In an article on the PoliticsHome site, Ian Austin condemned Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell for having views on Northern Ireland that were ‘completely outside the mainstream of the Labour Party’.

‘It might be ancient history for lots of the party’s new young recruits, but lots of older people will never forget what they said about the IRA during a brutal war which saw bombs planted and people murdered in shopping centres, hotels and pubs,’ he wrote.

‘A few weeks after the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton and murdered five people at the Tory party conference in 1984, Jeremy Corbyn invited two suspected IRA terrorists to the House of Commons. When the man responsible for planting the bomb was put on trial, he demonstrated outside the court.

‘As recently as 2003, John McDonnell said “those people involved in the armed struggle” should be honoured – people who he said had used “bombs and bullets”.

‘Let’s be really clear about this. It is not true to claim as John McDonnell does, that he did “everything I possibly could to secure the peace process in Northern Ireland”. 

‘It is just not true. People like him and Jeremy Corbyn were campaigning for a victory for the Republican cause, not working for a peaceful agreement between the two bitterly divided sides.’ 

The spokesman insisted the Labour leader endorsed the mechanism in the Good Friday Agreement for triggering a referendum on breaking up the UK – and believed there was a majority for unification.

However, the DUP accused Mr Corbyn of refusing to meet the victims of IRA terrorism during his visit.

Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said he invited the Labour leader to sit down with some of those bereaved and injured 10 days ago, but received no reply.

‘Unfortunately having emailed the invitation on the morning of 14 May, hand delivered that invitation and personally invited him in a face to face interaction yesterday, I am still without any substantive reply,’ he said. 

‘Yesterday afternoon Mr Corbyn’s office emailed me asking for my direct number. I supplied it but I have never received a call. This appears to be a blatant and deliberate snub to innocent victims.’ 

In an article on the PoliticsHome site, Labour MP Ian Austin condemned Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell for having views on Northern Ireland that were ‘completely outside the mainstream of the Labour Party’.

‘It might be ancient history for lots of the party’s new young recruits, but lots of older people will never forget what they said about the IRA during a brutal war which saw bombs planted and people murdered in shopping centres, hotels and pubs,’ he wrote.

‘A few weeks after the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton and murdered five people at the Tory party conference in 1984, Jeremy Corbyn invited two suspected IRA terrorists to the House of Commons. When the man responsible for planting the bomb was put on trial, he demonstrated outside the court.

‘As recently as 2003, John McDonnell said “those people involved in the armed struggle” should be honoured – people who he said had used “bombs and bullets”.

‘Let’s be really clear about this. It is not true to claim as John McDonnell does, that he did “everything I possibly could to secure the peace process in Northern Ireland”. 

‘It is just not true. People like him and Jeremy Corbyn were campaigning for a victory for the Republican cause, not working for a peaceful agreement between the two bitterly divided sides.’ 

Recent polls suggest support for unification in Northern Ireland is running at just 21 per cent. 

A referendum on unification requires a majority in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, not just across the entire Island of Ireland.

In a speech at Queen's University, Mr Corbyn said there was 'deep rooted' opposition to a hard Irish border

In a speech at Queen’s University, Mr Corbyn said there was ‘deep rooted’ opposition to a hard Irish border

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured in Belfast today) still backs a united Ireland and believes the idea is supported across the island

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured in Belfast today) still backs a united Ireland and believes the idea is supported across the island

It could only be triggered by the Northern Ireland Secretary in London – and only then if there is widespread support for the poll, likely to be demonstrated by a resolution of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr Corbyn is due to speak at to speak at Queen’s University in Belfast, where the IRA gunned down 29-year-old law lecturer Edgar Graham in 1983.

He has been challenged by the DUP to use the visit to condemn Irish Republicans – the political wing of which he was a rare supporter of in Westminster during the Troubles.

Mr Corbyn said last year he ‘never supported the IRA’, but as a backbencher he was close to Sinn Fein throughout the Troubles and shared platforms with convicted terrorists. 

The Labour leader will suggest that Tory Brexit plans are a threat to the current peace. 

Conservative Party deputy chairman James Cleverly said this week that he believed Mr Corbyn’s planned Queen’s University visit showed a ‘deep lack of respect’.

‘It’s deeply concerning that Jeremy Corbyn is considering showing up where Edgar Graham was killed by the IRA,’ the Conservative MP told the Mail on Sunday.

‘It shows a callousness and deep lack of respect.

‘Corbyn gave cover to the IRA while they were bombing and shooting our citizens.’

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, a united Ireland can only be brought about with the majority consent of people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said that during his visit he would seek to ‘engage with all communities and people across Northern Ireland’ on both the peace process and Brexit, as well as ‘the need for a transformation of the economy in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK in a way that works for all communities’.  



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