As we report in today’s Sunday Times, Jeremy Corbyn was instrumental in getting thousands of pounds of public money paid to the chief London representative of the IRA.
Files in the London Metropolitan Archives show that Corbyn lobbied the Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1980s to fund a new group called the Irish in Islington Project.
In a letter dated August 26, 1983, Corbyn said: “The work of the Irish in Islington Project is both necessary and desirable, and I urge that their application for two project workers should be met.”
It can be revealed that the two workers concerned were Gerry MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein’s principal representative in Britain, and Michael Maguire, another key republican in London. For a long time they were also the project’s only two staff.
Corbyn knew MacLochlainn (also spelt McLaughlin) was a convicted IRA terrorist who had recently been released after serving part of a six-year sentence for possession of bombmaking equipment and conspiracy to cause explosions.
He hosted MacLochlainn at the Commons the following year, 1984 – a few weeks after the Brighton bombing – triggering the first IRA-related row of his political career.
Here’s Corbyn acting as a referee in the same year, 1984, for one of the Irish in Islington Project’s later grant applications.
The files show Corbyn’s support was important in getting the grants approved. With his help the project got a total of at least £77,000 in various grants from the GLC and Islington council, the first in 1984. Most of this, the files show, was paid as salaries to MacLochlainn and Maguire. Here are a couple of documents showing MacLochlainn’s role, including one authorising him to pick up the GLC grant cheques.
There’s not much in the files showing what MacLochlainn and Maguire actually did for their money – though they did hold several events with republican groups in London. The suspicion must be that the grant was paid by the GLC (whose leader, Ken Livingstone, was like Corbyn an IRA sympathiser) at least partly to provide the IRA man with a means of support.
That suspicion is strengthened by the fact that the public cash continued to flow even after the project was raided by the police and Maguire was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act! Here’s a letter in which he explains to a GLC bureaucrat that he can’t send in the requested budget because the project’s paperwork was “severely disrupted” by the Special Branch at the time of his arrest.
What a great story this would have been for the GLC-hating tabloids at the time. It’s still a pretty good one now.