John McDonnell: Shadow Chancellor apologises for praising IRA and joke about murdering Margaret Thatcher

Mr McDonnell told BBC's Question Time: 'It was an appalling joke. It's ended my career in stand-up, let's put it that way'

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John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, has apologised for saying that IRA members should be “honoured” for their “armed struggle” and also for saying he wished he could go back in time and kill Margaret Thatcher.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time, Mr McDonnell said of his remarks about the IRA: “If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise, I apologise.”

At a rally in London in 2003 to commemorate IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, the MP said that it was “about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle”.

“It was 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,” he added at the rally.

On Thursday’s Question Time, he said that at the time he had been trying to help the peace process.

“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,” he 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.”

Challenged on this remark about Lady Thatcher by a member of the audience, Mr McDonnell said: "It was an appalling joke. It's ended my career in stand-up, let's put it that way, and I apologise for it as well.”

Mr McDonnell also said that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn normally did sing the national anthem – despite not doing so at a recent ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

“It was quite a moving event and he was casting his mind back to the war … the national anthem isn’t just for those who are monarchists, it’s for everyone and it represents the whole country and that’s why people sing it,” Mr McDonnell said.

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