Tony Blair was often accused of being an accomplished actor while he was leader of the Labour Party, but the great communicator has been put completely in the shade if you ask me, by the shameless performance of John McDonnell on Question Time the other night when he apologised for his remarks about 'honouring the bravery' of the IRA.
In 2003 John McDonnell said at an event remembering the death of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands:
"It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”
“In 2003 we were trying to impress upon all sides that we should sign the peace process, the Good Friday agreement. At one point in time it looked as though we were going to lose the peace process. There was a potential for the republican movement to split, there were many that were arguing they would continue what they described as the armed struggle.
“I went out and argued for the peace process and I made this speech to a group of republicans because one of the problems we had is that if there was a feeling that they were defeated or humiliated – and this was on both sides – they would not stand down. So I made this speech and I urged them to put their weapons away and to participate in the peace process. It was a difficult time.
“I think my choice of words was wrong. I accept that. I should not have said the issue about the honouring. I actually said afterwards that there is no cause that justifies the loss of life in this way. What I tried to do for both sides is to give them a way out with some form of dignity otherwise they wouldn’t lay their arms down.
“I accept it was a mistake to use those words. But if it contributed towards saving one life or preventing someone else being maimed it was worth doing because we did hold on to the peace process. There was a real risk of the republican movement splitting and some of them continuing with the armed process.”
Now I don't believe for a minute that John McDonnell played any significant role in 'holding on' to the peace process or that his words contributed towards saving a single life in Northern Ireland because by that time (in 2003) the Good Friday Agreement had been in place for six years.
And I'm sure that the people who did hold on to the peace process could have done without McDonnell 'bigging himself up' and sticking his nose in where it didn't belong.