Jeremy Corbyn last night faced a furious attack by a survivor of the IRA’s Poppy Day massacre, who said that, as a ‘sympathiser for terrorism’, the Labour leader should not be allowed to become Prime Minister.
Stephen Gault, whose father was one of a dozen people murdered on Remembrance Sunday in 1987 in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, used the anniversary of the attack to condemn Mr Corbyn for signing a Commons motion after the bombing which claimed that the violence in Northern Ireland stemmed ‘primarily from the long-standing British occupation’.
Diane Abbott, now Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Home Secretary, also signed the statement, which – despite expressing horror over the bombing – went on to call for Britain to relinquish control of the province to pave the way for the reunification of Ireland.
Carnage: The funeral procession of a victim passes the scene of the Enniskillen bombing in 1987
The development comes as The Mail on Sunday can reveal Mr Corbyn publicly defended his close ally John McDonnell when the now Shadow Chancellor sparked uproar in 2003 after heaping praise on the ‘bravery’ of the IRA whose ‘bombs and bullets’ had secured peace in Northern Ireland.
Mr Gault, who was one of more than 60 people injured when the republican terror group detonated the bomb during a wreath-laying service at the town’s war memorial, told The Mail on Sunday that Mr Corbyn was: ‘A mouthpiece for terrorists.’
He added: ‘It beggars belief that he could actually become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.’
Mr Gault, who was 18 at the time of the bombing, also pointed to Mr Corbyn’s close relationship with Sinn Fein – the political wing of the IRA – saying: ‘He never seems to condemn any terrorism at all, whether it’s Al Qaeda or Provisional IRA. He never has and never will. He’s probably Sinn Fein’s greatest ally within Britain.’
Still suffering: Stephen Gault and wife Sharon at a memorial service in 2012
No one has ever been convicted over the atrocity and Mr Gault has resigned himself to the fact that he will never get justice, particularly because of the death in 2017 of the man he believes ordered the bomb – former IRA chief, Sinn Fein Stormont leader and friend of Corbyn, Martin McGuinness.
‘Mr Corbyn openly supported Sinn Fein back in the early years… so for victims of the IRA he is not a person we would like to see as Prime Minister,’ Mr Gault said.
He was standing next to his father on the day of the bomb and says he is still suffering mentally and physically 32 years on, having undergone several operations and needing medication for pain, as well as the support of his wife Sharon. He recently turned 50, making him now older than his father was when the bomb killed him at 49.
Referring to Mr Corbyn’s attempt to blame Britain’s ‘occupation’ of Northern Ireland for the attack, Mr Gault said: ‘He couldn’t come out and condemn the actions of terrorism. He tried to blame the British occupation of Ireland. In his eyes, that was the reason behind it, which is totally disgusting.
‘I would welcome an opportunity to actually sit down and get his rationale as to why he thought terrorism in Ireland was right. He needs to hear it from the actual victims’ mouths.
‘If he ever became Prime Minister, I still would view him as a mouthpiece for terrorists. It wouldn’t change.
‘He needs to come out and say why he supported terrorism. If there was another terrorist atrocity, God forbid, is he going to come out, regardless of which terrorist organisation, and condemn them – or is he going to support them?’ At the height of the IRA’s so-called ‘armed struggle’, Corbyn spoke at republican commemorations to honour dead IRA terrorists, ‘prisoners of war’ and active ‘soldiers’.
Jeremy Corbyn with Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in 1995
Corbyn was also arrested in 1986 taking part in a protest by IRA sympathisers to ‘show solidarity’ with accused terrorists including the Brighton bomber, Patrick Magee, who was subsequently convicted of murdering five people, including a Conservative MP, at the 1984 Tory party conference.
It can also now be revealed that, during a major row regarding John McDonnell’s praise for the IRA in 2003, Mr Corbyn leapt to his comrade’s defence.
At a Republican meeting, Mr McDonnell claimed it was the ‘bravery’ and ‘the bombs and bullets and sacrifice that brought Britain to the negotiating table’. IRA victims, families and politicians slammed the comments, with Nobel Peace Prize winning architect of the Belfast Agreement David Trimble calling them ‘disgusting’. Victims group Families Action For Innocent Relatives also said they were ‘disgusted’.
However, amid calls for Mr McDonnell to be expelled from Labour, Mr Corbyn publicly defended his friend, saying he spoke ‘uncomfortable truths’ and should be praised for helping to bring peace.
In a letter to the Guardian in June 2003, Mr Corbyn wrote that Mr McDonnell ‘has been a superb parliamentarian and he has never been afraid to ask awkward questions’.
And he blamed the media for the row, suggesting ‘it is a sad time when decisions regarding suspensions or expulsion from the Labour Party can be taken under pressure’ from the Right-wing press, ‘which has routinely abused anyone who has not supported the British presence in Northern Ireland’.
Continuing his gushing praise, Mr Corbyn went on: ‘McDonnell comes from a long tradition of Labour members who have questioned the Irish strategy. The peace process owes a great deal to people like him who have maintained a dialogue with the republican movement.
‘Democracy requires that MPs can speak freely and the interests of the Labour Party are not served by disciplinary action against those who speak uncomfortable truths.’
However, Mr McDonnell was later ordered to apologise over the row.
In a further development, last night Mainstream UK, the anti-extremist group fronted by former Labour MPs Ian Austin and John Woodcock, published a stinging dossier about Mr Corbyn’s past attacks on veterans to mark Remembrance Sunday.
Outlining a litany of quotes allegedly showing the Labour leader’s disdain for the Armed Forces, including branding troops in Iraq ‘occupiers’ and mocking captured SAS soldiers, Mr Austin said: ‘ Corbyn is not a patriot.
‘These comments show that, when young British men and women were putting their lives on the line for our country, he was on the other side.
‘He won’t stand up for the brave men and women in our Armed Forces, he can’t be trusted to defend our country and he is completely unfit to be Prime Minister’.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: ‘Jeremy has made it clear that he didn’t and doesn’t support the IRA and that what he always wants is to work for peace and respect for human rights.’