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Sunday, 30 December, 2001, 09:39 GMT
IRA 'freedom fighters' says MP
Peter Mandelson
IRA "committed to peace process" says Mandelson.
The IRA should be regarded as freedom fighters, former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has said.

Mr Mandelson said there had to be a line drawn between paramilitary organisations involved in a political process and terrorist groups like such as Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

The comments were made in a Channel 4 programme about the impact of the 11 September attacks in the United States called The Year the World Changed, broadcast on Saturday.

Mr Mandelson said: "I think the distinction we have to make is not between good and bad terrorists.

I don't call them terrorists when they reach that stage. They are resisters

Peter Mandelson

"It is between those terrorists who have political objectives and are prepared to negotiate those objectives at the end of the day and engage in some sort of dialogue and ultimately some sort of political or peace process.

"I don't call them terrorists when they reach that stage. They are resisters. They are freedom-fighters, or whatever.

"They're like territorial, as opposed to international, terrorists.

"And it's what stage of development they're at, what attitude they have to politics, whether they're prepared to engage."


Mr Mandelson, who is now the Labour MP for Hartlepool, refused to be drawn on whether he would see Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams as a freedom fighter.

Theresa May
Theresa May "astonished" at comment.
"I don't want to label Gerry Adams," he said.

"But he is tied to the IRA, a terrorist organisation or a paramilitary organisation which is engaged in a ceasefire, which is committed to a peace process, whose political representatives take part in political institutions, and that's the difference."

'Despicable remarks'

A spokeswoman for the Conservative Party described Mr Mandelson's remarks as "astonishing".

Shadow cabinet minister Theresa May said: "If these reports are correct, it is astonishing that any Labour MP, especially a former Northern Ireland Secretary, could describe the IRA as anything other than a terrorist organisation."

North Belfast Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds said they were "some of the most despicable remarks made in recent times".

"There can be no such thing as a good or bad terrorist.

"Atrocities such as Bloody Friday and Enniskillen were not acts of freedom fighters but of blood-thirsty terrorist gangsters.

"They were carried out with the same dedication and deadly motivation as other international terrorists such as al-Qaeda," the DUP MP said.

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





See also:

04 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble call over terrorism
06 Dec 01 | Americas
Analysis: Who is a terrorist?
25 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Year of arms breakthrough
24 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Mixed NI views on Mandelson resignation
09 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson: Life goes on
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