Corbyn defends republican stance

Posted By: September 28, 2015

Labour leader announces Markievicz plaque
Irish News(Belfast).Monday, September 28, 2015

: Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn during the party’s annual conference in Brighton yesterday PICTURE: PA 

Jeremy Corbyn has announced plans for a plaque to commemorate the election of Constance Markievicz, the first woman MP 
JEREMY Corbyn has defended reaching out to republicans at the height of the Troubles by insisting he “wanted the violence to stop”.

The Labour leader said: “I don’t want violence, I don’t want killing, I don’t want all the horrors that go with it.”

Mr Corbyn has faced strong criticism for bringing members of the IRA to the House of Commons during the 1980s.

But speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC yesterday as his party conference got underway, he said everyone he met had been former prisoners who had completed their sentences and the goal had been to open dialogue and reach a political solution.

“Yes, I did make myself very unpopular with some people by a preparedness to reach out to the republican tradition in Ireland, to say ultimately this war is unwinnable by either side, there is never going to be a military (answer) – therefore there has to be a political dialogue.

“At the same time, secretly, the British government was also engaged in that and then eventually in 1994 we got the first ceasefire.”

Asked if he was less critical of IRA violence than British military action, Mr Corbyn said: “The violence was wrong on all sides and I have said so all along.

“My whole point was if we are to bring about a peace process, you weren’t going to achieve it by military means.”

The Labour leader acknowledged his long-running commitment to a united Ireland, but added: “Quite honestly, the peace process has brought about a huge step forward.

“There is a lot of cross border agreement, there is a lot of cross border institutions, there is a feeling – you go to Belfast, you go to Dublin, people travel back and forth all the time.

“The governments are in touch with each other every hour of every day on different issues.

“There is that kind of sense there is one island of Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn has also announced that a memorial plaque will be erected to commemorate the election of the first woman MP, Irish republican Constance Markievicz.

Countess Markievicz, pictured, who played a major role in the 1916 Easter Rising, was elected as a Sinn Féin MP in 1918 but did not take her seat.

Mr Corbyn said she was serving a jail sentence at Holloway Prison in his Islington North seat when she was elected.

“Our important footnote in history is that the first woman elected to Parliament came from Islington North,” Mr Corbyn told the Labour women’s conference on Saturday.

“She was in Her Majesty’s Prison Holloway at the time.

“It was, of course, Connie Markievicz who was elected as a Sinn Féin member for Dublin Central, the first woman elected to Parliament.

“She didn’t want to take her seat and couldn’t take her seat anyway.

“But I have been discussing this with women colleagues on Islington Council and when we rebuild our library next to the prison we are going to have a plaque, a memorial, up so that all the generations can understand the contribution that Connie Markiewicz and so many others made.”