Billed as “Exclusive, MI5”, the Daily Telegraph splashes with a predictable twist on an ancient theme, that Jeremy Corbyn had been under surveillance for having “ links” to the IRA.
This is the flip side of the super-patriotic coin that supports army veterans in their campaign, backed by Theresa May, against prosecutions for illegal actions in Northern Ireland and now supported by the Commons Defence Select Committee.
It’s so much easier than thinking to take sides and leave it at that.
The army under pressure could do no wrong and if they did, sure it was understandable.
The IRA campaign was a legitimate anti-imperialist armed struggle. It was understandable – that word again – to treat servants of the state as “legitimate targets” in the cant phrase, but if they retaliated or got their retaliation in first, it was against the rules and a gross violation of their civil rights.
I was always amazed that the Troops Out movement backed by the left Labour fringe of Benn, Livingstone, McDonnell, Corbyn, and Abbott didn’t take off during the 25 years of the IRA campaign which caused 115 deaths and 2,134 injuries from a total of almost 500 attacks in GB. 814 regular soldiers were killed in the Troubles. The British public and their political leadership of all parties can be commended for their general forbearance. How much worse it would have been if the army had pulled out, in spite of the abuses that were a regular feature of their presence under conditions that were mutually oppressive. The Blue Labour pressure group founded by Labour peer and academic Maurice Glasman which influenced Ed Miliband, puts Corbyn’s views in better context:
Most controversially, Corbyn and Ken Livingstone invited Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams to a meeting at the Commons in 1984. Corbyn supporters now claim that he was merely ahead of his time and has been vindicated by the later peace process. Another view is that this peace process could only come to life once the IRA realised that taking lives in London and elsewhere would not secure their aims….
Far from being premature peacemakers, Corbyn and Livingstone probably fed IRA illusions that they could deploy the ballot box and the armalite, or semtex, at the same time and maybe see their interlocutors taking office and implementing a united Ireland policy. I make no claim that Corbyn and his comrades condoned IRA violence but the demarche in 1984 highlights a naiveté that undermines Corbyn’s claim to leadership now.
Journalism like the Telegraph’s long after the event stocks up old controversies, revives old enmities and needlessly opens wounds. On the row over reopening a handful of cases against the army long after the event, the best that can come out of it is to prompt serious consideration about a statute of limitations all round, instead of the prevailing knee jerk opposition to it which extends all the way from Amnesty International to the May government . Meanwhile, on the Telegraph’s “Exclusive” on the mild mannered Jeremy Corbyn, you’d never think there’s an election on would you? The impact I suggest, will be just about zero.
MI5 opened a file on Jeremy Corbyn amid concerns over his links to the IRA, the Telegraph has discovered.
The Labour leader was investigated over fears that he could have been a threat to national security at a time when he was supporting convicted terrorists and campaigning for a unified Ireland.
The revelations come as a Telegraph investigation reveals Mr Corbyn’s full links to the IRA, including his support for one of the Balcombe Street gang, who waged a 14-month bombing campaign across south-east England, and his links to the bomb maker believed to have been behind the Hyde Park and Regents Park devices.
Mr Corbyn also shared a platform with a wanted IRA killer and John McDonnell, his shadow Chancellor, claimed that the pair of them used to “pin people against the wall” in the House of Commons to lobby them on behalf of Ireland, can be disclosed.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London