Stephen Nolan quotes the Daily Telegraph in June. “This is a man who sympathised with violent Irish republicanism in the 80s, invited IRA representatives to the Commons a fortnight after the Brighton bombing in 1984 and at a Troops Out meeting in 1987 he stood for a moment’s silence for eight IRA terrorists killed in an SAS ambush”. How do you respond to that.
Jeremy Corbyn: Quite simply I maintained contact with Sinn Fein and believed that there had to be a political, not a military, solution to the situation in Northern Ireland. The British government developed that process, the Labour Party developed that process and eventually we had agreement between the SDLP and Sinn Fein which was the important step forward and then the historic agreement between the generality of the unionists and the generality of the republican movement. We got the two ceasefires and eventually the Belfast Agreement. Northern Ireland has taught the whole world an awful lot about resolving conflict by understanding the historical process of both communities.
SN: But let me understand what you stand for and (what) your attitude is, for example, towards the IRA? Are you sympathetic to what they were doing?
JC: My point was always that there had to be a political peace process to avoid the violence, to avoid the bloodshed and avoid the deaths. It was that whole direction I wanted things moved in and, as I said earlier, the great achievement of the two ceasefires and then the Belfast Agreement is something that we can all move forward on.
SN: But do you condemn what the IRA did?
JC: I condemn all bombing, it is not a good idea, and it is terrible what happened.
SN: The question is do you condemn what the IRA did?
JC: Look I condemn what was done by the British Army as well as the other sides as well. What happened in Derry in 1972 was pretty devastating as well.
SN: Do you distinguish between State forces like the British Army and the IRA?
JC: Well in a sense the treatment of IRA prisoners which made them into virtual political prisoners suggested that the British government and the State saw some kind of almost equivalency. I mean my point is that the whole violence was terrible, was appalling, and came out of a process that had been allowed to fester in Northern Ireland for a very long time and surely we can move on a bit and look towards the achievements of the peace process in moving things forward.
SN: But if you are a potential candidate for the Prime Minister of the UK Jeremy it is fair for me to push you one more time. Are you prepared to condemn what the IRA did?
JC: What it is fair to push me on is how we take the peace process forward …
SN: Are you prepared to condemn what the IRA did?
JC: Can I answer the question in this way? We gained ceasefires, they were important and a huge step forward. Those ceasefires brought about the peace process, brought about the reconciliation process which we should all be pleased about. Can we take the thing forward rather than backward?
SN: Are you refusing to condemn what the IRA did?
JC: (RAILWAY NOISE) Sorry I couldn’t hear that.
SN: (more noise) Are you refusing to condemn what the IRA did?
JC: I feel we will have to do this later you know. (NOISE STOPS)
SN: Well let me just ask you this last question while it is quiet there. Are you refusing to condemn what the IRA did? (line goes dead)