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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Outrage over MP's praise of IRA
John McDonnell
John McDonnell was first elected to Parliament in 1997
A London Labour MP has sparked outrage by saying IRA terrorists should be "honoured" for taking part in their "armed struggle".

John McDonnell, member for Hayes and Harlington, made his remarks at a gathering in London to commemorate the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, according to the Sun.

The MP praised the "bravery" of the IRA, whose "bombs and bullets" had resulted, he said, in the peace process in Northern Ireland.

His remarks have been condemned by politicians and the family of one of the IRA's victims.

Mr McDonnell told the meeting: "It's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle.

I find them (the comments) incredible. On a personal level, they were grossly insulting and insensitive
Colin Parry, father of IRA bomb victim

"It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table."

Bobby Sands, 29, starved himself to death in prison more than 20 years ago.

Mr McDonnell told the Sun the deaths of innocent civilians was a "tragedy" but it was "as a result of British occupation in Ireland".

Following the reported comments Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said Mr McDonnell's remarks were worse than anything the suspended Labour MP George Galloway had said about Iraq.

"Mr McDonnell's remarks about the IRA, apart from being completely wrong, are crass, insensitive and an insult to the thousands of British people, police and servicemen who have been murdered, maimed or bereaved by the actions of these terrorists," he said.

The Upper Bann MP added: "He should be expelled from the Labour Party immediately."

'Grossly insulting'

Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds and Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson also condemned the MP's comments.

The father of one of the IRA's victims said his views were "grossly insulting".

Colin Parry's son Tim was killed at the age of 13 in the 1993 Warrington bomb which also killed a three-year-old boy.

"I find them (the comments) incredible. On a personal level, they were grossly insulting and insensitive", he told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"His political point is utter nonsense. The man is crass beyond belief.

'Praising murderers'

"For him to think my son's death was justified in political terms is about the greatest disservice he could do to my son and my family."

A Labour Party spokesman said Mr McDonnell's views did not represent the party's views.

"The Labour Party unreservedly condemns all atrocities perpetrated by the IRA and other paramilitaries."

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Quentin Davies said: "It's almost unbelievable that an MP should heap praise on those who have murdered our fellow citizens."

Mr McDonnell's constituency includes Heathrow Airport, which was the target of IRA mortar attacks nine years ago.

He is also the chairman of the socialist Campaign Group of MPs and a member of the all-party Irish in Britain group in Parliament.

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