MP McDonnell apologises on TV after praising IRA ‘bravery’ in 2003
JOHN McDonnell has made a TV apology for his praise of IRA ‘bravery’ 12 years ago.
The Hayes and Harlington MP was on the panel at the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday night when he was confronted by an audience member over his controversial comments, made in 2003.
Mr McDonnell, who was last week appointed Labour’s new shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, was on record saying: “It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”
But last week the MP said his choice of words had been a ‘mistake’.
He told the audience at Brent Civic Centre, and host David Dimbleby: “I think it needs explaining.
“In the 80s and 90s, we thought that the bombs and bullets would continue on forever.
“We lost 3,000 people. I met many of their families on both sides.
“In 2003, we were trying to impress upon all sides that we should sign the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement.”
Mr McDonnell added: “Many were arguing they would continue what they called the armed struggle and I went out and argued for the peace process and I made this speech to a group of republicans.”
He said if republicans felt they were ‘defeated or humiliated’ there would be a return to the dark days of the Troubles.
“I think my choice of words were wrong. I should not have said that,” he said.
“I accept it was a mistake to use those words, but if it contributed to saving one life or preventing someone being maimed then it was worth doing.
“If I gave offence, and I clearly have, then from the bottom of my heart I apologise.”
He also apologised for a joke he made in 2010 that he would like to ‘go back to the 1980s and assassinate [Margaret] Thatcher’.
Grilled by an audience member, he said: “It was an appalling joke.
“It’s ended my career in stand-up, let’s put it that way, and I apologise for it as well.
“It was an off-the-cuff remark.”
Prime minister David Cameron blasted Mr McDonnell’s comments on the IRA during Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday.
The PM said: “I have a simple view which is the terrorism we faced was wrong.
“It was unjustifiable – the death and the killing was wrong.
“It was never justified and people who seek to justify it should be ashamed of themselves.”
n APOLOGY: MP John McDonnell