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Jeremy Corbyn – ‘I don’t back Labour candidates in Northern Ireland’

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has come out against the party standing candidates in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a debate at the West Belfast Festival, where he got a warm reception from a packed crowd at St Louise’s school on the Falls Road, Mr Corbyn was asked about the party’s decision not to organise in Northern Ireland.

The Islington North MP said Labour’s Executive has repeatedly endorsed the position “there are no plans to change that at the moment”.

“There’s no great wish in the rest of the party to organise in Northern Ireland,” he said.

That had been speculation that Mr Corbyn might change his stance and back Labour candidates here, which his leadership rival Andy Burnham supports.

Mr Corbyn said he encourages debate on the issue of standing candidates locally but when asked if as leader he would change the party’s stance he added: “My own view is I would not.”

Labour traditionally has suggested that its supporters in the Province should support the SDLP, as its sister party, a position that has frustrated pro-Union Labour members.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson, who was also on the debate panel, said he would welcome Labour choosing to run candidates in Northern Ireland.

“I think there’s a contribution there to be made,” he said.

He also said that he had voted with Labour more often than the Conservatives since being elected as MP for East Belfast in May.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn appeared uncertain when asked on radio if he condemns the actions of the IRA.

In a tense interview with the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Mr Corbyn said he believed in a “political not military solution in Northern Ireland” but seemed to stop short of condemning the IRA.

Mr Corbyn was asked – do you condemn what the IRA did? He replied: “I condemn all bombing, it’s not a good idea, it’s terrible what happened.”

When the presenter repeated the question Mr Corbyn said: “Look I condemn what was done by the British Army as well as by other sides, but what happened in Derry in 1972 was pretty devastating.”

Later in the interview Mr Corbyn was asked if he was refusing to condemn what the IRA did.

At this point a train announcement interrupted the interview and it was ended as Mr Corbyn said he could not hear the question.

Mr Nolan told listeners that the programme had been trying repeatedly to get the London MP back on the show.

The presenter said that Mr Corbyn’s campaign team had told the show that he would not have time to conclude the interview and that they thought Mr Nolan’s interview was “unnecessarily rude”.

Speaking on the current stand-off over welfare reform, Mr Corbyn said the British government needs to change its approach.

“Essentially this is a budget issue at the present time and the British Government should be funding Northern Ireland properly,” he said.

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