Labour’s newly appointed shadow chancellor John McDonnell, has apologised for once calling for Irish Republican Army (IRA) members to be “honoured”.
The controversial 2003 comments by McDonnell resurfaced in the media and were condemned by MPs after the 64-year-old was named shadow chancellor this week.
Speaking on a BBC panel discussion, McDonnell apologised for any offence given and indicated the remarks were intended to help peace in Northern Ireland.
“I accept it was a mistake to use those words, but actually if it contributed towards saving one life, or preventing someone else being maimed, it was worth doing because we did hold onto the peace process,” McDonnell said.
“There was a real risk of the republican movement splitting, and some continuing with the armed process. If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise.”
The comments were made at a 2003 meeting in London in which McDonnell 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 (hunger striker) Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA.”
McDonnell also took the opportunity to apologise for once quipping that he wished he could go back in time and assassinate former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, calling it an “appalling joke”.
McDonnell, who like new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hails from the party’s left-wing faction, was seen as an uncompromising choice for shadow chancellor and raised some eyebrows within the party.