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Sunday, 30 December, 2001, 12:51 GMT
MP denies 'IRA freedom fighters' claim
Peter Mandelson
Mr Mandelson tried to broker peace in the province
Peter Mandelson, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, has denied he suggested the IRA should be regarded as freedom fighters.

Mr Mandelson was moving to clarify comments he made on a TV programme in which he suggested that some terrorists might be seen as freedom fighters if they turn away from violence and become engaged in "some sort of political or peace process".

He later stressed that he did not believe the IRA fell into such a category.

Gerry Adams
Mandelson: 'I don't want to label Gerry Adams'

He said: "Of course, the Provisional IRA is on ceasefire and is engaged in a peace process and is represented in democratic political institutions, as I also remarked.

"But that does not make them freedom fighters and never will."

Mr Mandelson's original comments were made during a Channel 4 programme about the impact of the September 11 attacks in the United States called The Year the World Changed.

On Saturday's programme he 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.

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."

'Absurd'

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.

"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."


Any democrat regards the IRA as terrorists, past, present and future

David Burnside
UUP MP
Mr Mandelson later added that any suggestion that he was linking the IRA with freedom fighters was a "misrepresentation".

The clarification was welcomed by Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who said: "It must be clear to everyone that the IRA continues to be a terrorist organisation until such time as it decommissions its illegal weapons and disbands its structures.

"The idea that anyone could hold a view that they are freedom fighters is quite frankly absurd."

And UUP MP David Burnside said: "I am pleased that Peter has clarified his position, because any democrat regards the IRA as terrorists, past, present and future."


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IRA arms breakthrough

Background

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See also:

30 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA 'freedom fighters' says MP
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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