Alex Massie

The Labour party is now led by people who wanted the IRA to win

The Labour party is now led by people who wanted the IRA to win
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Most people in this country still have no idea who Jeremy Corbyn is. He exists in a fog of curiosity. Who is this guy? What does his election mean? Where are we going? Well, they are about to find out.

I am not surprised Corbyn has handed John McDonnell the plum job of being Shadow Chancellor. He is an old comrade and wanting his reward was always likely to receive it. It's an interesting move, nonetheless.

I suppose it is possible few people under 35 have much of an idea about the IRA. Unfortunately, of course, most of the people who vote are over 35 and they remember the IRA all too well. And I am not sure they will take kindly to the fact the Labour party is now led by people who wanted the IRA to win.

This is no exaggeration. Jeremy Corbyn spent much of the 1980s speaking at Troops Out rallies. Given the choice between standing with Irish nationalists in the SDLP or Irish republicans in Sinn Fein and the IRA, Jeremy Corbyn chose the latter path. Perhaps someone will now ask him why. Perhaps they'll ask him why he's been happy to 'honour' IRA members shot by the British Army but disinclined to shed too many tears for those murdered by the IRA.

Then again, why should Ireland be any different from anywhere else? Corbyn is chairman of the so-called Stop the War coalition (which should really be named Lose the War), an organisation that supported the Iraqi 'resistance' in the years after Saddam Hussein was removed from power. If that meant cheering the deaths of British soldiers then so be it. The resistance should use 'any means necessary' .

And Corbyn is hardly alone. As his new Shadow Chancellor put it:

It's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA.

This is a point of view but it's the point of view typically held by the kind of people who wanted the IRA to win. The war we had was kinda due to the action of the IRA too.

Again, it is important to note that there was always a constitutional alternative to Sinn Fein and the IRA. The republicans were a minority within the wider nationalist movement. The tragedy of the peace process has been the hollowing out of what passed for Northern Ireland's moderate centre and its replacement by a carve-up between extremists on both sides of the dispute.

But, still, it was never hard to distinguish between the decent and the abhorrent. On the one hand lay the SDLP on the other Sinn Fein and the IRA. It is revealing that Jeremy Corbyn and his most senior comrade each chose to take the side of the IRA.

Remember, too, that just two weeks after the Brighton bombing Corbyn invited IRA bombers to the House of Commons. Remember that as you contemplate the fact McDonnell is on record saying he'd "cheerfully go back to the 1980s and assassinate Thatcher".

The grubby compromises forced upon successive governments by the Northern Irish peace process have gone a long way towards rehabilitating Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, obscuring their crimes and losing them in a cloud of wilful forgetfulness. That's much to be regretted, not least since it also grants a certain indulgence to those people who supported the republican movement back in its murderous heyday.

Far from being the sponsors of  peace, the IRA was only persuaded to shift towards a quasi-constitutional approach by its essential military defeat. Only then could Adams begin the process of bringing his people towards the negotiating table. The vital precondition for peace was the failure of the armed struggle. In other words, the likes of John McDonnell are, predictably, entirely wrong.

Nevertheless, it is quite something to see the Labour party captured by the republican movement. There is nothing wrong with supporting the idea of a united Ireland (even though the Irish have little interest in such a thing) but if you are going to do so, how you demonstrate this support still matters just a little. You could support the SDLP or you could support Sinn Fein and the IRA. Labour's new leadership supported Sinn Fein and the IRA and that tells you all everything you need to know about this new Labour party.


Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePolitics