Sinn Fein should not be allowed to escape the ban on double mandates

I’m a child in these matters compared to Slugger hawks but am I alone in thinking that Sinn Fein have got away with it over double jobbing? With all the emphasis on the gravy train that I truly believe would have destroyed parties in GB, all the NI parties have been in a conspiracy to engineer a soft landing for themselves. The train may have slowed already but they still enjoy a big splash of jus . For Westminster they’ll still be able to employ one relative and as things stand before an independent regulator is appointed, there’s no bar on dynasties at Stormont, right?

It goes flat against what the chairman on Standards in Public Life Sir Chris Kelly recommended

Recommendation 40 x
The practice of permitting a Westminster MP simultaneously to sit in a devolved legislature
should be brought to an end, ideally by the time of the elections to the three devolved
legislatures scheduled for May 2011


But NI parties were allowed to extend this to 2015 – to avoid upsetting the Stormont applecart. Peter Robinson will make an exception of himself and retain his double mandate, but I presume Margaret Ritchie will resign if she takes south Down, Reg would resign as a minister and how will Sammy cope? But there’s no sign of an end to the Sinn Fein baronial tradition. Even though they don’t take their Westminster seats, they’ll qualify for the reduced scale of Westminster expenses. Their Stormont salaries and expenses are unaffected, am I right?

But this a matter beyond expenses, it’s about democracy. Money aside, is a double or treble mandate democratically appropriate? It seems nothing can be done to prevent SF multi mandates while sanctions are tied to money and it’s left to parties to decide for themelves. A legal bar on sitting in one than one chamber would be a significant constitutional move but not an unknown one. It now applies to the European Parliament and will apply to Lords and Commons whenever elections are introduced for the Upper House. This incidentally will provide NI parties with yet another Chamber to be elected to. The radical move of a bar on election to more than one elected body is one which Westminster in the dying hours of this Parliament had no stomach for, although the Tories at least fired a shot across Sinn Fein’s bows.

Conservative MP Laurence Robertson said it was a move “in the right direction” but MPs should not be able to sit in devolved assemblies at all, as recommended by Sir Christopher Kelly’s Committee on Standards in Public Life.
“If people are physically sitting in the Northern Ireland Assembly then they can’t be physically sitting here,” he said.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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