For many of us actually affected by IRA violence, the most offensive aspect of the current debate is not Corbyn's comments but being used as a cheap political point.by Siobhan Fenton / May 23, 2017 / Leave a comment
Many in Northern Ireland have been greatly surprised to find that our little region is now top billing on news bulletins. As one of the smallest and most overlooked portions of the UK, Northern Ireland seldom gets a look in when it comes to general elections. Labour and the Liberal Democrats don’t bother running candidates there, while the Conservatives do so only as a symbolic gesture to their unionist ideology.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 22, 2017
With few votes to be gained and subsequently little incentive to court the Northern Irish electorate, the region largely remains an afterthought to both political parties and the media outlets following them along the campaign trail.
However, Northern Ireland has been thrust into the media spotlight once again due to recurring claims that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has sympathies for the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The terror group committed a number of major atrocities during the Troubles conflict which engulfed Northern Ireland between the late 1960s and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement peace treaty in 1998.
The Labour leader, like many political figures, met with IRA members during the Troubles. He was perhaps more open about it than others, especially as it has since emerged that the British government was instigating contact with the group at times when its official position was denial of any such contact.
Contact with the Republican side was by no means a sign of sympathy with the IRA. Such talks were engaged with and attended by many members of the British government, despite their personal distaste at what the groups stood for, in a bid to end the conflict. For many politicians, it was a matter of them putting the ultimate goal of peace above principled but fruitless refusals to talk to terror groups. Indeed, this was a position the British government came to adopt on due course.