Northern Ireland

Labour's Keir Starmer says IRA comments were 'regrettable'

Sir Keir Starmer
Image caption Sir Keir Starmer is the shadow cabinet spokesman on Brexit

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has said past comments by party colleagues about the IRA were "regrettable".

"We have to call out terrorism for what it is," he said.

In an interview with BBC News NI, Sir Keir said his party "had a strong record" on fighting terrorism.

The former Director of Public Prosecutions said: "I have prosecuted very serious criminals who are now serving very long jail sentences."

He added: "The Labour Party has supported strong counter-terrorism legislation over the years and we have that commitment in our manifesto".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn with Gerry Adams at the House of Commons, May 1995

Jeremy Corbyn's campaigning during the Troubles has come under renewed scrutiny since his election as Labour Party leader, and during this general election his remarks about the IRA have been the focus of much attention.

Mr Corbyn has said that "all bombing is wrong", but has been repeatedly pressed to condemn specific IRA attacks.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Diane Abbott is "taking a break" from the election campaign

Recently, the Labour front bencher Diane Abbott said she had changed her views on the IRA, after she previously claimed that "a defeat for the British state would be a great liberation".

Speaking to BBC presenter Andrew Marr, the shadow home secretary said a quote he produced was 34-years-old, and "we have all moved on".

Taking a break

Mr Corbyn has since announced that Ms Abbott "is taking a break from the campaign because she is unwell".

Asked if he regretted that Mr Corbyn had made past comments about the IRA , Sir Keir said: "l think any remarks about the IRA are regrettable."

"We have to call out terrorism for what it is and I have always done that, and the Labour Party has always done that. Jeremy has been very clear that public safety is the number one priority."

Image caption London Bridge attacker Rachid Redouane had lived in Dublin

Sir Keir also commented on the news that one of the London Bridge attackers had lived in Dublin before moving to London.

He said it was "too early to talk about failings " by the British and Irish intelligence services.

The shadow Brexit secretary said it was important to have a "broad review of what happened", and added that the Common Travel Area which allows free travel between the UK and the Republic of Ireland "should stay ".

"What matters is that there is continued cooperation on any intelligence data," he said.

Human rights

Quizzed on Theresa May's call to change human rights laws if they stop the government from tackling terrorism, Sir Keir said it was "very tempting to think the response to a terrorist attack is to pass more legislation - we have been doing that for a very long time "

He said he wanted to see resources going into the intelligence services and more police officers.

Sir Keir added that his party "had supported legislation as a party over the years to deal with terrorism and will do so in the future."

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Image caption Sir Keir Starmer said failure to reach a deal with the EU would result in a hard border in Ireland

On how the Irish border would look after Brexit, he said: "We are absolutely clear we can not have a hard border we need to negotiate with our EU partners."

Talking about the forthcoming Brexit negotiations the Labour front bench spokesman added: "Any talk of no deal is completely unacceptable.

"No deal means we can't reach any agreement about the border in Ireland and that is not a place we want to be."

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