The newly elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is a close personal friend of former Derry City Councillor, Gerry MacLochlainn.
Gerry, who served as a local Sinn Fein Councillor from 2001 to 2012, first met Mr. Corbyn in London during the early eighties when the then newly elected M.P. opened up talks with Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams.
Gerry, now manager of Derry’s Glenview Community Centre, was Sinn Fein’s representative in London throughout the eighties and both lived and worked in Mr. Corbyn’s constituency of Islington North.
“Jeremy is a good friend,” declared Gerry. “He was one of the first British politicians who recognised the importance of talking to Sinn Fein. At the time he, along with others, was vilified for doing so but we wouldn’t be where we are today if people like Jeremy, had not talked to Sinn Fein,” he insisted.
Gerry worked at an Irish Community Centre in Islington in the 1980’s and said Mr. Corbyn’s support of the ex-pats was unwavering.
“Jeremy is the kind of person who will work with and work to help anyone - he does not distinguish.
“Much has been written in recent weeks about Jeremy’s left-wing political views but I know that he will be keen to involve and work with people with different views, beliefs and opinions - he’s a very humane and inclusive man.”
Mr. Corbyn also worked alongside Gerry on both the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four Campaigns and took part in many protests and helped to organise meetings at Westminster for the families of those murdered by British soldiers in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
“When Martin McGuinness said Jeremy Corbyn is a friend of Ireland, he was completely right.
“Jeremy is not afraid to take a stand on issues where he sees injustice. He took part in protests to get British troops out of the North,” he added.
Mr. Corbyn, who won the Labour leadership race with a landslide victory of almost 60 per cent of the vote last weekend, also travelled to Gaza with Gerry, former Mayor of Derry, Paul Fleming and many other politicians and human rights activists in 2009.
“On the way home from Gaza the Egyptian police pulled me to one side - I must state that I was not treated badly or abused - but when Jeremy heard what had happened he immediately arrived at the scene and waited until I was released - he wanted to make sure I was okay - that’s the type of person he is.”