World exclusive: #Corbyn – Mowlam’s ENVOY, met IRA AND loyalists

Word reached the SKWAWKBOX during the writing of this article that the Sun has been trailing that it’s ‘going big’ on Jeremy Corbyn at 10pm this evening. If it’s preparing another IRA-related smear after it disgraced itself with its ‘Blood on hands’ attack, which appeared after the terrible events in Manchester on Monday, it’s going to have egg on its face.

The Sun is not the only right-wing publication to attempt the same smear. Another rag carried a cartoon showing masked terrorists campaigning door to door for the Labour leader.

Such smears could not be further from the truth – which the SKWAWKBOX brings you exclusively.

This blog has spent a significant part of this month talking to various people on both sides of the republican/loyalist divide, digging to get cast-iron confirmation, from people who were there, of one core fact:

Jeremy Corbyn’s was an envoy of the British government who played a vital role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Not only that, but he met – and was highly regarded by – senior figures in both republican and loyalist groups.

Corbyn’s meetings with figures such as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have received plenty of – usually negative – publicity. So this article will focus on his contacts with loyalist figures, without neglecting the significance of his discussions with republicans.

David Ervine

david ervine.png

David Ervine

David Ervine, in his younger days, was a member of the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force), an armed loyalist group, and was arrested I 1974 while driving a car containing a significant quantity of explosives. After his release from prison in 1980, he stood as a local candidate for the PUP (Progressive Unionist Party) and later became the leader of that party. As a socialist, he was invited in 1994 to attend the annual conference of the Labour Party and confirmed the Irish Times that he would attend:

irish times

During his attendance at that conference – which as the article above shows was also attended by senior republican figures – he met with Jeremy Corbyn and his team.

One week later, a ceasefire was called in Northern Ireland.

Valerie Veness, Corbyn’s former assistant, confirms that she and Corbyn met David Ervine on at least four or five occasions over a period of years.

Gary McMichael

Mr McMichael is a former leader of the now-defunct UDP (Ulster Democratic Party). He played a key role in the early days of the Northern Ireland peace process – and a vital role in that 1994 ceasefire.

He also met with Jeremy Corbyn on several occasions.

Rev Ian Paisley

paisley.png

Neil Latimer was a member of the ‘UDR Four’ – four members of the Ulster Defence Regiment who were convicted of the murder of Catholic Adrian Carroll in 1983. In 1992, three of the men had their convictions overturned but Mr Latimer remained in prison in spite of three appeals that many felt should have been upheld.

The Reverend Paisley was involved in supporting Mr Latimer’s case. Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Latimer in prison on a number of occasions and became friendly with Paisley, with the two men conversing regularly by telephone.

Mr Paisley’s widow, Eileen, told the Belfast Telegraph:

[Paisley and Tony Benn] were very close even though Ian said he was a bit of a republican. I remember watching them embrace once and there was such warmth between them.

Ian knew Jeremy Corbyn too, and he liked him. He didn’t share his politics and he didn’t approve of Jeremy Corbyn meeting Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein people when the IRA campaign was still going on. But he always found him very courteous and polite. He said Jeremy was a gentleman.

Corbyn’s role in mediating with loyalist figures is now a matter of established fact.

The Republicans

Mrs Veness, Corbyn’s former assistant, talked to the SKWAWKBOX at length about the Labour leader’s involvement in Northern Ireland in those days. She told this blog:

A huge amount of garbage has been written about Jeremy and Northern Ireland. He’s never claimed to start the peace process, but he did play a vital role. He always said you’ve got to talk to all sides if you want to find a solution.

John Major said he would be sick to his stomach to talk to Gerry Adams, but he already had secret back channels.

Jeremy never lied about his contacts or involvement and it’s what made him so respected. The first breakthrough in Northern Ireland was when a Tory minister announced britain has no selfish interest there. That was something the republicans had been waiting for.

There were three things the repubican movement wanted:

  • equality of esteem
  • a declaration that if a majority of the people voted for united ireland, the UK government would respect that
  • release of prisoners – there were thousands, both loyalist and republican

The issue of the prisoners was incredibly complex – a tangled nightmare. Jeremy helped unpick it. The republicans trusted him to do it in a way they wouldn’t have trusted other uk politicians.

Mo Mowlam (late Northern Ireland Secretary under Tony Blair) needed someone she could trust and who was trusted by the republicans. She asked Jeremy.

There is simply no way Adams or McGuinnes would have signed up to the peace agreement without resolution of the prisoner issue, so it’s true to say that Jeremy’s role in the peace process was extremely important.

New Labour lied saying he didn’t help, but without him there would have been no deal.

Jeremy was trusted because he had long shown solidarity.In his very first advice surgery as an MP, Paul Hill’s (see below) aunt and uncle came looking for help.

When Drumcree banned loyalist marches and the town was surrounded by loyalists, Jeremy, I and others went over to show support – we had to walk across field to get there. That earned him the respect of republicans.

The idea he would support bombing campaign absolute nonsense. You need to remind people that one reason he’s slightly careful when he answers questions on Northern Ireland is that he spent years working on miscarriage of justice cases and he doesn’t want to compromise anyone.

Paul Hill from the Guildford Four was in prison and getting married. Jeremy was his best man – the Sun never apologised for smearing him as a ‘mass murderer’s best man’ on their front page, not even after the Guildford Four were exonerated and released.

Jeremy was criticised for bringing a ‘bomber’ into the House of Commons. That was Ronan Bennett – he was subsequently exonerated and is now an internationally recognised playwright. Again, the media never apologised.

He, Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone felt only a political solution could possibly help Northern Ireland – and you can’t have a political solution without the republicans on board, so the fact they had kept lines open was crucial – without that Sinn Fein would never have joined the negotiations.

Remember, at the time Thatcher was saying we don’t speak to terrorists but they were doing it through backchannels, via civil servants. The difference is, JC was honest and up front about it.

There was huge oppression of the republican community in Northern Ireland. You even had English kids being pulled over under Prevention of Terrorism Act when visiting their Irish grandparents.

I worked for Jeremy on the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases, as well as on the prisoner issue.

Even then, the papers gave him a hard time – they wanted to preserve the status quo, repress republican communities – you had three generations of kids, all they knew was soldiers on streets. The press attacked Labour’s left to maintain the status quo, which is the same as now

When the Birmingham Six came out of prison, the Mail and Sun said outrageous things against some of them, until they started legal action in ireland and the papers backed down immediately and paid up.

Jeremy’s work laid ground for eventual peace negotiations to take place – but he didn’t get the recognition he deserved because Mo was replaced by Mandelson.

The peace process is still fragile, but the media don’t care about Northern Ireland – they’re only interested in destroying Jeremy.

EDMs

Corbyn signed an EDM (early day motion) condemning the IRA bombing of Birmingham. (See

Corbyn’s credentials on Northern Ireland are – as with his stance on military action in the Middle East, on apartheid in South Africa and so many other issues – impeccable. The honesty and integrity that has drawn huge numbers to join the Labour Party was a key part of the achievement of peace in Northern Ireland. And the right-wing press, now as then, is seeking to smear him for their own political ends.

Spread the word.

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23 responses to “World exclusive: #Corbyn – Mowlam’s ENVOY, met IRA AND loyalists

  1. Back it up with a Ghandi peace medal/prize piece, the list of other recipients shows the high regard Jeremy is held in for the peace work he’s done & is still doing.
    I think it’s worth an article if for no other reason than to give campaigners more to come back at detractors with.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: But Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable? HE ISN’T IF YOU VOTE FOR HIM! – Straight talking, honest blogging·

  3. Pingback: No, .@bbcnews, Corbyn’s speech just shows he’s a leader #GE17 #Manchester | The SKWAWKBOX·

  4. Fantastic piece. Thanks for the hard work Skwawkbox. Proof that Corbyn knows how to negotiate properly. Exactly what we need for Brexit. Not May chucking her toys out of the pram when things don’t go her way.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on The Night Owl and commented:
    Everybody needs to read this, to see the truth of Jeremy Corbyn’s involvement in the Peace talks for Ireland.
    It’s not enough to believe all the media lies being dragged out to besmirch his name – you really need to look into the things they accuse JC of, and realise the pack of lies that they are! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Can you provide sources for “Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Latimer in prison on a number of occasions and became friendly with Paisley, with the two men conversing regularly by telephone.” Please? Very important point that will stand up much more strongly if backed up. Thank you

    Like

  7. I’ve never heard Corbyn himself say he was made an “envoy” by Mo Mowlam. Isn’t this the sort of thing we could have expected him to have mentioned, rather a lot? Can’t he produce this witness himself?

    But we’re to believe “New Labour” (who as you say, hated Corbyn) called him in to solve a problem? Then apparently they somehow “Mandelson” deletes all evidence of this. Sorry, not buying that. There were many people better qualified to arbitrate in Northern Ireland itself, who’d done this stuff for donkeys’ years. “No deal without him” is utter bollocks, completely overlooking the international and domestic impetus behind the process. There’s the British and Irish Governments, Bill Clinton and the EU involved. They’re not sitting there thinking “There’s only one man for this! Corbyn!”

    He’s on the record, in his own words, for God’s sake. He didn’t oppose the Anglo Irish Agreement because it didn’t involve Republicans. He opposed it because he saw it as an impediment to a United Ireland. This was the only peace he was interested in for years. The SDLP clocked him as a Republican. But hey, they’re only Labour’s sister party, and from Northern Ireland, what do they know? By the way, was Corbyn right about no peace without a united Ireland? He was completely wrong, wasn’t he?

    “Talking to terrorists” involves a bit more than getting them in for a photo op. If you do that, you’re being played by them and it enrages “the other side”. There’s a reason that government do this thing via intermediaries. It’s not them being “less honest” than Corbyn. And it comes with conditions too. Do you reckon Major was just saying Hi?

    I note there aren’t many dates for these contacts with Loyalists. Gary McMichael is still active. Did you confirm any of this with him? David Ervine got an invite to a conference in the mid 90s- not quite the treatment to Republicans had got, is it? By the way, for all the successes the Peace Process has had, controlling the UVF (as formerly represented by Ervine) hasn’t been one of them. See BBC NI Spotlight, passim, for evidence of their continued murder and mayhem. So I’m not sure “he spoke with David Ervine a few times” is a great recommendation.

    I see Paisley up there. You’re aware what his successor as DUP Westminster leader said about Corbyn in 2015?

    Like

    • Corbyn’s already said why he doesn’t talk in detail about those days – he’s respecting confidences. If the people involved in those confidences choose to talk to this blog about it, that’s a different matter. You’re really reaching – there aren’t ‘many’ dates? There are dates – case closed. Had a call today from the brother of one of the loyalist figures who’s now deceased. He has asked around and confirms the meetings. GM opted not to talk, which is his prerogative. His presence at meetings has been confirmed by others.

      You’re also factually wrong about the invites – republicans were at the conference at the same time as the loyalists. What Paisley’s successor said is irrelevant – he wasn’t party to the discussions between Corbyn and his predecessor.

      Like

  8. Hang on.

    If you condemn IRA bombing by itself, it “compromises” people? But if you say “IRA and all other violence in Northern Ireland”, people aren’t compromised? This is ridiculous.

    Like

  9. Thanks so much for this, SB. I found a comment reply to an article in Labour Uncut from 2015 some weeks ago from Keith Veness, the husband of Valerie and have shared it around as much as I can, but as you can imagine, scorn has been poured over it. It felt very reassuring to find information confirming my gut feeling on JCs character and integrity.
    I for one am incredibly grateful for your hard work securing an interview with Mrs Veness and that she felt able to speak out. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

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