Johnson and Starmer clash over IRA during PMQs

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer have clashed over IRA allegations made during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Labour leader Sir Keir called on Mr Johnson to “have the decency” to withdraw a remark made about him relating to the IRA.

The Prime Minister accused Sir Keir of having “supported an IRA-condoning politician” by serving in former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench team.

Mr Corbyn, who has supported Irish republicanism, said in a 2017 interview with Sky News: “I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”

Mr Johnson told the Commons: “This is a leader of the opposition who supported an IRA-condoning politician who wanted to get out of Nato and now says absolutely nothing.”

Mr Johnson’s comments were cut off by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who called for order.

Sir Keir demanded Mr Johnson withdraw his comments relating to the IRA, adding: “Before I go on, the Prime Minister said something about the IRA and I want him to take it back.

“I worked in Northern Ireland for five years with the Police Service of Northern Ireland bringing peace.

“I prosecuted, as director of public prosecutions, serious terrorists – for five years working with the intelligence and security forces and with the police in Northern Ireland.

“I ask the Prime Minister to have the decency to withdraw that comment.”

Schools reopening
Schools reopening

The Speaker asked if the Prime Minister wanted to withdraw his allegation he made about Sir Keir.

Mr Johnson replied: “I listened to the protestations of the right honourable gentleman and think they have would have been more in order throughout the long years in which he supported a leader of the Labour Party (Mr Corbyn)…”

Sir Lindsay then signalled for Mr Johnson to sit down.

In response, Sir Keir said: “When the Prime Minister has worked with the intelligence and security forces prosecuting criminals and terrorists he can lecture me.

“I asked him to do the decent thing, but doing the decent thing and this Prime Minister don’t go together.”

Earlier, during Northern Ireland questions, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh called for ministers to deliver the funding to secure the future of the Peace Foundation.

Warrington Peace Centre was set up following the deaths of Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball in the 1993 Warrington bombing.

Johnathan was three and Tim was 12 when the IRA exploded two bombs in Warrington on March 20 1993.

Tim’s parents, Colin and Wendy, set up their own charity 1995 to work for peace, and the centre was established in 2000. Part of its work is to provide a free national support service for victims of terrorism in the UK, including trauma-informed health and wellbeing services.

She told the Commons: “Yesterday would have been the 40th birthday of Tim Parry who along with three-year-old Johnathan Ball was killed by an IRA bomb in Warrington in 1993.

“The Peace Foundation set up in their name supports victims of terrorism nationwide but at the end of this month, that service will close unless ministers deliver on the funding they have promised in this House.

“In this week of all weeks, will (Brandon Lewis) step up and secure the future of this vital service?”

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Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis responded: “I think there are a range of victims who have waited too long for things like victims’ payments, we need to see that moving on, we need to see a whole range of areas moving on.

“I hope the work we can do with the Northern Ireland Executive, not least of all with the introduction of the Independent Fiscal Council, we can see the Executive start to allocate their funding and move on with these projects.”

Ms Haigh also raised concerns around the appointment of Claire Fox as a non-affiliated life peer.

Ms Fox was most recently a Brexit Party representative in Brussels, but was formerly a senior activist in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).

An RCP newsletter at the time of the attack stated that the party defended “the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures necessary in their struggle for freedom”.

Though Ms Fox has said she does not condone violence, she has not apologised for the position at the time.

Ms Haigh said: “The father of Tim Parry, Colin, has also said on the anniversary of his son’s 40th birthday that the appointment of Claire Fox to the House of Lords offends him deeply.

“Given her continued refusal to apologise for defending the Warrington bombing, can I ask was (Mr Lewis) consulted on her peerage and has he raised any concerns with his colleagues in Number 10?”

Mr Lewis responded: “As I think has been outlined before, I think (Ms Fox) will be sitting as a cross-bench peer. She has already outlined her own answer to that and I think I’ll let her words deal with it themselves.”

Two shocking answers from @BrandonLewis that are an insult to @peacefoundation and shows he has not been briefed and an alarming lack of care and even respect – at least everyone can now see why we are in so much trouble – we need someone to take control of this situation https://t.co/1hT3POdZmi

— Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation (@peacefoundation) September 2, 2020

In a tweet, the Peace Foundation said: “Two shocking answers from @BrandonLewis that are an insult to @peacefoundation and shows he has not been briefed and an alarming lack of care and even respect – at least everyone can now see why we are in so much trouble – we need someone to take control of this situation.”

A spokesman for Sir Keir said: “One thing we would remind the Prime Minister is that he has the power to block Claire Fox being nominated as a member of the House of Lords.

“And so if he wants to take any action on this issue, we suggest he does that.”