McDonnell appointment provokes unionist anger

Posted By: September 15, 2015

McDonnell appointment provokes unionist anger
John Monaghan. Irish News.(Belfast). Tuesday, September 15, 2015

 John McDonnell  the new shadow chancellor, caused fury amongst unionists with previous comments praising the IRA. 

The appointment of a London MP who once said it was “about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle” as Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow chancellor has caused anger amongst Unionists.

John McDonnell, a key ally of the new Labour leader, was heavily criticised for remarks made at a commemoration in 2003 to mark the anniversary of Bobby Sands’ death.

Mr McDonnell told the gathering: “It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table.”

In an interview he also said that while the deaths of innocent civilians in the Troubles was a “tragedy”, it was “the result of the British occupation of Ireland”.

Mr McDonnell later sought to clarify the remarks in a newspaper article.

He wrote: “Let me be clear, I abhor the killing of innocent human beings. 

“Irish republicans have to face the fact that the use of violence has resulted in unforgivable atrocities. No cause is worth the loss of a child’s life.”

However, he added: “Among British people there has to be an acceptance that the violence of the past 35 years had a root cause. It wasn’t some pathological trait of the Irish.”

In a separate remark in 2010, Mr McDonnell said that if he could go back to the 1980s he would have former prime minister Margaret Thatcher “assassinated”, later saying it was a “joke and it went down as a joke”.

Mr McDonnell twice stood for Labour leadership in the past but decided against a bid this year, after recently suffering a heart attack.

As his appointment as arguably the most important member of the shadow cabinet was confirmed, unionists reacted with disbelief.

DUP North Down MLA Peter Weir said he was “disgusted” at Mr McDonnell’s elevation.

He said: “Sickening choice for shadow chancellor and a foretaste of things to come.”

Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson also said he was seeking a meeting with the new Labour leadership.

He said: “These comments from Mr McDonnell were disgusting in 2003 and he has never sought to retract or show any understanding for the hurt he caused to the innocent victims and survivors of Provo terrorism.”

Meanwhile, Vernon Coaker has been reappointed shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, two years after he last held the post.

Ivan Lewis was dismissed from the role on Sunday, reportedly by text message, after an offer to stay on during the current political talks was rejected by Mr Corbyn.

The MP for Gedling in Nottinghamshire served as shadow Northern Ireland secretary from October 2011 to October 2013.