Why SF MPs will not take their seats

Again in the Irish Times, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin explains the ground on which his party is abstaining from sitting in Westminster and petitioning to gain access to the Oireachtas (subs needed) instead. It is, he argues, a question of what was in the party’s manifesto, and endorsed by it’s voter base. Which might indicate, there’ll be no change in the party’s stance until the next Westminster election at the very earliest.

We would not participate if the oath was amended or even removed altogether, because our abstention from Westminster is not based on the oath. Under our party constitution, Sinn Féin candidates in Westminster elections are pledged not to “sit in, nor take part in, the proceedings of the Westminster parliament”. That is because we believe the Westminster parliament has no right to legislate for any part of Ireland.

We also recognise the reality that British jurisdiction has not ended. In the Good Friday agreement we reached an accommodation that, in the words of Gerry Adams when the Executive was formed, “does not require the compromise of principles or the diminution of vision”.

Mr McDowell, Reg Empey and Dermot Nesbitt have yet to accept the plain fact that last May some 174,530 people elected five abstentionist Sinn Féin Westminster MPs. This confirmed Sinn Féin as the largest nationalist party in the North and the largest pro-agreement party. It must be remembered that the Sinn Féin MPs were elected on the basis that they would not sit in the British parliament. In that respect they are not refusing to sit in the parliament that they are elected to, as Senator Brian Hayes would have it, rather they are fulfilling their election promises by not sitting in the British parliament. They are elected by Irish citizens who deserve and demand to be represented in an Irish parliament.