Why DID Jeremy Corbyn share offices with a convicted IRA bomb maker… who was embroiled in a £550k scandal? Bill Akass and Richard Pendlebury investigate
- Jeremy Corbyn asked GLC to fund the Irish in Islington Project in February 1984
- He recommended jailed IRA terrorist Gerard McLaughlin as its outreach head
- McLaughlin served four years inside for buying parts for radio-controlled bombs
- Corbyn and McLaughlin remain friends and in 2009 travelled to Gaza together
On February 7, 1984, John McDonnell, then finance supremo of Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council, sent a note to a junior colleague in the Ethnic Minorities Unit.
He wrote: ‘I understand that the Irish in Islington Project will shortly be submitting an application for capital funds to establish an Irish Centre.
‘I would like to lend my support to the Project and could you keep me informed of its progress.’
At the time, McDonnell was a GLC member for Hillingdon, miles across the capital from Islington.
Why was he showing such a personal interest in this distant and obscure proposal?
His note — found by the Mail among millions of GLC documents in the Metropolitan Archives — followed a letter sent to the Ethnic Minorities Unit the previous summer by another prominent local Marxist politician.
Jeremy Corbyn, the recently elected Labour MP for Islington North, had asked the GLC to provide funds for a headquarters and two full-time officers for the Irish in Islington Project, then yet-to-be established.
Meeting: Gerard McLaughlin (far left) and Jeremy Corbyn (far right) with bespectacled Gerry Adams and Tony Benn at the House of Commons in 1994
Devastation: The aftermath of an IRA remote-controlled bomb at Chelsea Barracks in 1981
The project’s ‘community outreach worker’ was Gerard McLaughlin (pictured in the 1970s), who had just been released from jail having served a four-year sentence for buying vital parts for the radio-controlled bombs used by the IRA in its terror campaign across the British Isles
Corbyn was a member of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, of which the Irish in Islington Project was a subsidiary.
The GLC paid. But who would fill the two positions paid for by London taxpayers and promoted by Corbyn and McDonnell, the men who on December 13 could be Britain’s new Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer?
The project’s ‘community outreach worker’ was Gerard McLaughlin, who had just been released from jail having served a four-year sentence for buying vital parts for the radio-controlled bombs used by the IRA in its terror campaign across the British Isles.
Its ‘co-ordinator’ was Michael Maguire, a former member (he claims) of Provisional Sinn Fein, who would later marry a Civil Service IRA mole who was involved both in helping the armed escape of 38 IRA prisoners from the H-Blocks and in the attempt to spring another Provo killer from prison by helicopter.
Yesterday, the Mail published part one of a major investigation into the assistance Labour’s current leadership had given to convicted terrorist McLaughlin.
We revealed the cache of letters McLaughlin sent to a fellow hard-Left nationalist from his cell in which he raged against ‘the Jews’, applauded IRA atrocities and signed off ‘f*** the Queen!’
He had vowed that he would ‘return to the struggle’ and predicted he would commit more crimes that would result in jail.
On his release, the Irishman and his Communist fiancee Val Cardwell needed to escape the fury of their neighbours in a working-class Welsh Valley.
Only days after McLaughlin walked free, Private Andy Bull, 21, from Nantyglo, the pit village to which the terrorist moved as a teenager, was blinded by an IRA bomb.
But help was at hand. The Mail revealed how McLaughlin and his partner were able to jump to the front of a 12,000-long housing queue in ‘Loony Left’ Labour-controlled Islington, 160 miles away.
They were given a flat in a Georgian terrace, today worth half a million pounds.
Jeremy Corbyn, the recently elected Labour MP for Islington North, had asked the GLC to provide funds for a headquarters and two full-time officers for the Irish in Islington Project, then yet-to-be established (HQ pictured, now private flats)
Protest: McLaughlin (left) and Corbyn at a Bloody Sunday 20th anniversary march in 1992
This week, Mr Bull, now 54, told the Mail of his anger at the help McLaughlin received from senior Labour politicians.
Special Branch had been so concerned by McLaughlin that they had applied to the Home Office that he be excluded from the British mainland on his release.
Instead, McLaughlin enjoyed what could be described as a charmed life — thanks, in part at least, to his friends John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn.
He has been a ‘good friend’ of Corbyn in particular for more than 30 years. They have travelled the world, including sharing a platform with a Palestinian cleric accused of anti-Semitism, in the name of revolutionary solidarity.
Today, we will show how — unlike many convicts who struggle to find work, let alone terrorists —McLaughlin was handed not one but two taxpayer-funded jobs close to his taxpayer-funded home in London.
Archive records examined by the Mail show McLaughlin and Maguire set up an office in a community centre in the heart of Corbyn’s constituency, in Archway, North London. Corbyn himself used the same address for monthly constituency surgeries.
Mr Corbyn in 1984 at a demonstration to take British troops out of Northern ireland
In his first year in the post, McLaughlin was paid £8,600 (about £29,000 in today’s money).
By 1993, he was being paid just under £20,000 per year by Islington council (£40,000 today).
The stated aim of the Irish in Islington Project was to promote ‘the socio-economic and cultural welfare of the Irish by obtaining a more equitable share of resources and by combating racism’.
Grant applications suggested that new funds were to provide day-care facilities for the elderly and a ‘drop-in centre’ for newly arrived Irish immigrants.
It also held an Irish festival, funded by the GLC and launched a newsletter called Sceal.
Readers of that publication may have been bemused to find — among snippets about a new Irish lunch club and a Mother and Toddlers’ group — a ‘Stop Press’ concerning Jeremy Corbyn’s arrest outside the Old Bailey.
The man who hopes to be prime minister next week had been protesting against the trial of the Brighton bomber Patrick McGhee.
The senior leadership of Sinn Fein, then the political wing of the IRA, would not have been surprised: they had appointed McLaughlin as their official spokesman in London.
Prior to McLaughlin’s release from jail, a delegation from the Islington branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group (IBRG) — of which Corbyn was a member —had met Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, according to their own records.
Though McLaughlin makes no mention of his work for the Irish in Islington Project, he has boasted to his local newspaper in Derry — where he now lives — about facilitating meetings for Adams with British politicians.
He said it was ‘great to be working in London at that time because I could see the changes that were taking place.’
Documents uncovered by the Mail also show that McLaughlin and Maguire had been lined up to speak — with fees paid by the GLC — at an Irish conference in North London in late 1984.
But after the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party conference in October that year, their names were dropped from the schedule.
Jeremy Corbyn with hairdresser Charlotte Wilkins at Windwood Heights Retirement Village in Nottingham, while on the General Election campaign trail on Wednesday
Jeremy Corbyn doing arts and crafts during a visit to Winwood Heights Retirement Village in Nottingham on Wednesday
The event nonetheless went ahead and included workshops on ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act, Electoral Strategy, Irish prisoners in British jails and Plastic Bullets’.
GLC archives show John McDonnell opened the conference with a ‘confident and strident speech which set the tone for what turned out to be a very successful day’.
Any disappointment McLaughlin may have felt at being cut from the roster of speakers was short lived thanks to the now notorious intervention of Corbyn, the MP for Islington North.
Just 13 days after the attack which killed five Conservative delegates, including one of his fellow MPs, Corbyn invited McLaughlin and another convicted terrorist Linda Quigley into the House of Commons.
Challenged by a newspaper about the visit, Corbyn at first denied it. But when weeks later this lie was exposed and the story confirmed, he was unapologetic, saying: ‘I would be prepared to meet them again in the House. I don’t consider there was a security problem.’
The following day, according to new evidence from archived documents the Mail has uncovered, the GLC’s Ethnic Minorities Committee resolved to treat a £36,028 grant application from the Irish in Islington’s sister project, the Irish in Greenwich Project, with ‘overriding urgency’.
McLaughlin himself returned to the House of Commons for a press conference organised by the IBRG, where he declared: ‘I have often come to the House since my release. In fact, I have done so whenever I felt I wanted to speak to people here.’
The Times reported that ‘he would not give his address in Islington’. This was in fact the flat at 1 Cruikshank Street, as revealed in the Mail yesterday. (McLaughlin used a Gaelic variant of his name, Gearoid MacLochlainn, on the official electoral registers, where he was listed at 1 Cruikshank Street WC1 between 1984 and 1997).
Despite the furore — not least within their own party — both Corbyn and McDonnell continued to assist McLaughlin in his work.
‘Migrant company’ and fraud claims
In 1987, McDonnell was appointed Chief Executive of the Association of London Authorities (ALA) — his first major role since being fired as deputy leader and finance chief of the Greater London Council after being publicly accused by his boss Livingstone of lying about budget cuts. McDonnell angrily denied it at the time.
He was particularly successful in securing millions in grants from the European Social Fund that helped plug the gaps in local authority services in London.
One beneficiary of Europe’s generosity was a new firm — the Migrant Training Company Ltd.
Links: Corbyn and McLaughlin in 2010
It is not known if McDonnell was personally involved in securing funds for the MTC, but it had been set up with his personal support and was staffed by some of his friends and former colleagues at London’s Camden Council where he had worked as a policy adviser.
It would come to receive more than £6 million from UK and European funds. The Migrant Training Company’s stated aim was to provide advice, money and work placements for Irish immigrants newly arrived in the capital — exactly the kind of scheme the European Social Fund was designed to help.
Among its staff and directors was someone who today works for McDonnell’s office.
This revolving door between the nascent training firm and a London council applying for funds on its behalf would later become the focus of a major and embarrassing investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office.
But perhaps the most astonishing appointee was an individual named as a director in company filings: one Gerry McLaughlin, who listed his occupation blandly as ‘Community Development Worker’.
The republican terrorist, recently released from a four-year sentence for conspiracy to cause explosions, had become a director of a company founded and run by senior local government officials!
In 1989, McLaughlin and his new wife Val Cardwell journeyed to Stalinist North Korea, where they attended a ‘world youth festival’.
Years later, in his eulogy delivered at Cardwell’s funeral, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams recalled: ‘She greatly enjoyed her only visit to a socialist country and strongly supported the Korean people’s struggle to reunify their country, a struggle that she believed had much in common with that of Ireland.’
There was an ironic — if not hypocritical — postscript to this ideological pilgrimage to that benighted country.
Soon after the couple returned to London, they took advantage of another stroke of taxpayer-funded good fortune, courtesy of their bete noir, Margaret Thatcher.
Exploiting the Tories’ ‘right to buy’ law — which was bitterly opposed by Labour — McLaughlin bought the 125-year lease on their council flat at 1 Cruikshank Street, Islington.
Thanks to the discounted rate for local authority tenants, he paid just £30,800 for the property, less than half the market valuation of £70,000.
Yet another variant of McLaughlin’s name appeared on the title deeds: Marius Gerard Majella MacLochlainn.
It was under that name that he secured a mortgage with the Halifax — despite his serious criminal conviction.
The official transfer date was entered on records as December 25, 1989 — a generous Christmas gift from the British state he openly despised.
On April 1, 1990, the new homeowner’s name appears in Companies House filings for the Migrant Training Company.
Another director was former teacher and local councillor Dave Horan, who had known Corbyn since the 1970s and later worked for him as a researcher. When Horan died in 2010, Corbyn and McDonnell attended his funeral.
The signatures of McLaughlin and Horan continued to appear on company records, but by 1994 the MTC’s own accountants noted ‘a significant level of concern’ about its future.
But it was not until March 1997 that it emerged the company had been subject to a major fraud inquiry by the EU’s own investigators.
It was claimed fake invoices and forged documents were used to obtain the European Social Fund cash. There is no suggestion McLaughlin or McDonnell were involved in wrongdoing at the company.
The allegations were first raised in a Commons debate by David Shaw, then Tory MP for Dover.
He said: ‘I have recently come across the Migrant Training Company. Labour councillors in Camden have apparently been involved in a £1 million fraud with taxpayers’ money, and European grants have gone astray.’
Jeremy Corbyn interjected to ask: ‘Where is the evidence?’ There is no record of him declaring any interest at the time — such as the direct involvement of so many of his friends and political allies in the scheme.
Indeed, years later Corbyn himself was named as patron of the Migrant Training Company on a web page that was deleted but has now been retrieved by the Mail.
Shaw replied firmly to Corbyn’s question: ‘The evidence is sitting in the Department for Education and Employment, which has a European Court of Auditors report showing that the company has been involved in serious fraud.
‘That is a disgrace, and the Labour councillors and members involved should be exposed.’
The Metropolitan Police began an investigation into Camden Council’s role in the alleged fraud.
The full story did not emerge until the Observer newspaper revealed that EU officials had demanded the return of over £550,000 by the MTC and eight Labour-run London boroughs.
An inspection of company files indicated that the money was returned — paid out of council funds.
No criminal charges were brought, although it was reported that at least one McDonnell ally left his council post as a result.
Camden Council commissioned its own report, which concluded there was no evidence or substance to support the allegations of impropriety.
Camden did accept that there had been a failure to comply with the requirements of the European Social Fund, the council’s own regulations and the national codes of conduct relating to its dealings with the MTC.
The Mail sent a number of detailed questions to McDonnell about his relationship with the MTC, Cardwell and McLaughlin. Last night, his spokesman gave a brief statement in response.
‘The Migrant Training Company was a community initiative for young Irish workers who had migrated to London, many of whom were homeless and seeking a decent job and a roof over their heads,’ he said. ‘The appointment of directors was a matter for the company and not John.’
By the time the scandal broke, Gerry McLaughlin had moved to start a new life back in Northern Ireland, where he became a Sinn Fein councillor.
He and Cardwell had sold the Islington property for £64,500 — more than doubling their money and making a profit of £33,700. In 2002, Jeremy Corbyn would lament the lack of affordable housing in Islington, where the waiting list had risen to 14,000.
A 30-Year Friendship
Corbyn and McLaughlin remain close friends. In 2009, they travelled together to Gaza.
Two years later, they shared a platform in Geneva alongside a Palestinian cleric accused of anti-Semitism.
The cleric had also allegedly suggested Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks.
In June 2011, McLaughlin’s wife died. Corbyn was among the funeral mourners and a message was sent by McDonnell, according to a report in the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht.
Gerry Adams wrote a eulogy. An obituary on a British Communist website spoke of her having joined Sinn Fein while McLaughlin was in jail and working ‘behind enemy lines’ in the UK.
Just who are the ‘enemy’ to this tight network of the hard-Left and violent revolutionaries?
It’s a troubling question as the General Election looms.
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