MEPs to debate SF links to the IRA and crime

It looks like an uncomfortable week ahead for the 2 Sinn Féin MEPs. Following the move by the Chairman of the College of Quaestors in the European Parliament, Jim Nicholson, to instruct the parliamentary services to consider removing SF MEPs allowances, the Irish Independent’s Conor Sweeney reports from Brussels that next week MEPs will debate Sinn Féin links to IRA and crime

The report notes that –

The leader of the Socialists, Martin Schultz, will speak out on the issue, it was confirmed last night. Mr Schultz, from Germany, is the leader of the second largest party in the 732 member parliament.

While the largest party, the EPP, has appointed Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney to represent it in the debate at the start of business.

British Labour party members and Labour’s Proinsias de Rossa, who are all members of the Socialists in the parliament, will also speak.

The parliamentary legal services are also reported to be “scrutinising the grounds for cutting off the allowances and expenses for the two Sinn Fein MEPs.”

That particular action, may prove unlikely to be followed through on, although just because there is no precedent for the move doesn’t necessarily mean that a precedent cannot be set. While that issue remains unresolved, the debate itself should be interesting.. for some.. and uncomfortable for others.

As Richard Delevan noted earlier this week.. Sinn F̩in MEP Mary Lou McDonald was somewhat unprepared for the move by the College of Quaestors Рto date, there has been no reported response from SF to this latest news.

[According to the currently available European Parliament online briefing for next week, no specific debate appears to be scheduled, although on March 10th time has been set aside for “Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.. ]

  • Vlaams

    Alternatively, Rule 144 of the European Parliament allows for “a period of not more than thirty minutes during the first sitting of each part-session the President shall call Members who wish to draw Parliament’s attention to a matter of political importance. Speaking time for each Member shall not exceed one minute. The President may allow a further such period later during the same part-session.”

  • Christopher Stalford

    This debate has arisen as a consequence of lobbying from Jim Allister. He wrote to the other Jim requesting the matter be looked into by the Quaestors. He also urged Conservative/UKIP MEP’s to write to Jim Nicholson in relation to the contiued payment of allowances to the SF MEP’s.

    Maybe a non-aligned member can make a difference after all?

  • mickhall

    It would be an outrageous act to withdraw SF MEP allowances, this party stood and was accepted as a legal Party at the last EU elections. There MEP abide by all the rules of the European parliament to penalise them in any way is thus to disenfranchise those who voted for them. That members of the Irish Labour party are thinking of doing so is shameful. Do not forget the same party has always been quite happy to sit along side the heirs of Mussolini in the EU parliament, so what makes them now act against SF. It is difficult not to conclude that in this case it is for political advantage, as both party’s are aiming at a similar part of the ROI electorate or in the north SF has successfully challenged the ILP sister party the SDLP.…

    There may well be an argument for the British parliament to withdraw allowances as SF MPs do not take there seats, but as I have said to do the same in the EU parliament would be to set a dangerous precedent. All democrats whether of the left or right should oppose this and by so doing put petty personal advantage aside for the sake of democracy.

  • Christopher Stalford

    mick

    The DUP has always remained Non-aligned in the EP. As for undemocratic actions: I happen to think cutting a man to ribbons with a knife, repeatedly jumping up and down on his head and then obstructing the investigation into his murder are undemocratic acts. Sinn Fein cannot hide from the behaviour of their friends in the IRA any longer.

    Wind your neck in before you start lecturing abot SF/IRA’s democratic credentials.

  • Davros

    Pete – Snap! There’s been a lot of double posting lately:)

  • peteb

    My apologies to Ambrose.. I hadn’t spotted his post when I put this one up.

    Your blog was far better anyway Pete! A.U.

  • alex s

    It seems Sinn Fein could be non-aligned soon

  • aquifer

    Is a bankrupt Sinn Fein beside a flush IRA the best idea in the world? Political funding here is low by EU standards, cutting it just hands the initiative to the gangsters. Give the other democratic parties some extra funding as compensation for putting up with Provo meanderings. The net effect of IRA involvement was to get the DUP in and to put the SDLP and UUP in debt. Give them all some cash. It could pay for the Doc’s retirement party. Sure didn’t most of the IRA money come from government in the first place via tax and duty scams. Its an Ireland of equals, Even the score. Moneybags beats bodybags.

  • mickhall

    Christopher,
    If you believe SF should be made an illegal party says so; and put that before the electorate, do not attempt to do this by the back door. The issue you raised, i.e. the McCartney murder is not relevant to this issue, unless as I have already said your aim is to criminalise SF by the back door. There is only one criteria a political party needs to stand for election, i.e. it is legal and thus under the law able to do so. Once it passes this test, to penalise it in the manner you seem to support, is to disenfranchise those who voted for it. In other words it makes democracy a farce.

    The trouble today is from President and Prime Ministers to grubby back street bullies, far to many people believe they have the right to do something for no better reason than they can. In the process they trample on our laws and democratic rights, we should all try not to get caught up in the stampede, Yes those who murdered Mr McCartney should and will be brought to justice, but the campaign to bring this about is a million miles away from breaking the law to penalise SF or by manufacturing a fictitious precedent.

    Best regards.

  • Vlaams

    For what it’s worth I don’t think the Parliament will take any action against de Brun and McDonald. The only thing anywhere near is a precedent was when Le Pen was suspended from the Parliament in 2000, but that was following a ruling in a French court barring him from holding public office. The President of Parliament at the time, who was Nicole Fontaine ie French, took the decision. Le Pen appealed saying any ban could only be taken by the Parliament as a whole, but the European Court upheld the ban since the Parliament President was just following the Member State decision.

    The EP only has a rule for exclusion from the sitting on the basis of serious disorder or disturbance of Parliament’s work (Rule 149). The wider questions of possible other grounds for exclusion are under the first chapter of the rules, but there the Parliament seems only to be able to verify credentials on the basis of information received by Member States. If I recall correctly, the Spanish tried to exclude a Basque MEP from the last Parliament, but were unable to.

  • mickhall

    Vlaams,

    Thanks for that info, it is as it should be, this almost spontaneous reaction by some to ban, bar or smear political opponents is hardly helpful, as it means the political issues that have caused the rumpus are not argued through, instead all sides revert to an entrenched position.

    Incidentally SF members can be as bad as most at doing this, especially when they are criticised or questioned from within their own constituency. One of the reason the Party finds itself in its current predicament, is that its first reaction is far to often to deny and smear, instead of arguing through the issues raised.

  • Richard Delevan

    Vlaams “The only thing anywhere near is a precedent was when Le Pen was suspended from the Parliament in 2000, but that was following a ruling in a French court barring him from holding public office. The President of Parliament at the time, who was Nicole Fontaine ie French, took the decision. Le Pen appealed saying any ban could only be taken by the Parliament as a whole, but the European Court upheld the ban since the Parliament President was just following the Member State decision.”

    I think that this is precisely the point that Allister, Nicholson and the 10 Tory MEPs who are pushing this are making. The operative ‘Member State decision’ here is one by which Westminster has decided to dock Sinn Fein allowances. They want the European Parliament to respect the Member State’s sanction on Sinn Fein, just as it had to do with Le Pen.

    I agree it’s unlikely the money will be suspended, but when Mary Lou shouts about no one having the “right” to take her allowance away, she’s showing less knowledge about the rules than people posting on Slugger O’Toole.

  • Vlaams

    Richard,

    You may be right in what is behind the request to the Quaestors. However, on the basis of that logic, the sanctions would only apply to de Brun and now McDonald, as I don’t think the Irish government has imposed any comparable sanctions.

    As to the rights of the Parliament to act in this manner, the status on MEPs is not clear cut, which is why it has sought to establish a common statute for MEPs. This was nearly agreed last year, foundering on the question on the taxability of MEP salaries (believe it or not). An issue which seemed secondary at the time was that of MEP immunities and the Code of Conduct of MEPs. If a statute is adopted this year, as is not impossible, this issue could prove more fruitful for those seeking to go down the route taken at Westminster.

    It will be interesting to see what happens around the commemoration of the Madrid bombing and demonstration of support for the victims of terrorism, which will take place next Thursday.