Labour’s John McDonnell ‘Longs For’ A United Ireland But Says It Would Need Popular Support

'I am a Republican', the Shadow Chancellor says.
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Labour’s John McDonnell has declared he “longs for” a united Ireland, while insisting that the issue should be left to the people of Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a lunch in the House of Commons, the Shadow Chancellor said that he was still ‘a Republican’ despite no longer being a backbench MP.

Asked whether Brexit would trigger fresh moves to take the province out the United Kingdom, he replied he was ‘tempted’ by the question but stressed it was a matter for a public vote.

“You know my background, I’m a Republican. I long for a united Ireland. But I recognise democracy and Ireland will not be reunited on the basis of some contortions around the relationship with the EU.

“It will only be reunited on the basis of the popular support of the Irish people.”

Under the Good Friday peace agreement, a united Ireland can only happen if consent is given in a referendum in the province, a prospect that some believe could be triggered by a ‘hard’ Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn’s most senior ally also appeared to mock Ulster Unionists who take part in traditional marches in the country every year.

DUP leader Arlene Foster with Orangemen
DUP leader Arlene Foster with Orangemen
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McDonnell joked that he was ready to work with anyone to avoid a Tory government, including the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

“There will be some curious relationships that come out of a general election. If I can get my application in for the Orange Order and order my bowler hat and sash for the marching season, you never know.”

His remarks risked fresh condemnation from the DUP, whose 10 MPs currently prop up Theresa May’s minority government.

McDonnell has previously attracted criticism from the Northern Irish party, not least when it emerged he still has a plaque in his constituency office which commemorates IRA and INLA hunger strikers.

In 2015, he apologised “from the bottom of my heart” for previously suggesting that the IRA should be honoured for the bombings which brought the British government “to the negotiating table”.

As a backbencher in 2003, he had said: “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. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”

Labour under Michael Foot in the 1980s briefly backed a policy of a united Ireland while also seeking ‘consent’ of the local population.

But under Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair and other leaders since, it dropped the controversial ambition of reunification of the province and the Irish republic.


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