“Is abstention from Westminster now an end in itself?”

With an abstentionist Sinn Féin irrelevant to the number crunching at Westminster it’s interesting to see Gearóid Ó Cairealláin, in the North Belfast News, musing aloud about the “elephant in the room”.

At his Irish Central website, Niall O’Dowd argues that “The time is now to take that step” [end Sinn Féin’s abstentionism] – although he mistakenly believes that “the Sinn Fein party is abstaining because of the oath of loyalty to the Queen”.

As Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams stated before the election, it’s not, or at least, not just, about the Parliamentary oath of allegiance.

That’s a position the party’s held for some time – as a reference to an Irish Times report, dated 5 December 1997, in the Parliamentary research paper [pdf file] noted previously reveals

Mr Adams said the question of the oath was “a bit of a distraction”. While a change might be good for British democracy, it would not alter Sinn Fein’s position. Asked if he could see himself sitting in the Commons following a change to the oath, Mr Adams said: “No, because the issue for us is the claim of that parliament to jurisdiction in Ireland.”

That party position was re-iterated in 2006 when there was a suggestion that the oath could be changed.

But Sinn Féin has abandoned other abstentionist policies in the past.

In 1970 the Official Sinn Féin, later the Workers Party, was created after a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis debate on abandoning the party’s abstentionist policy in relation to Dáil Éireann.  The then titled Provisional Sinn Féin maintained the Dáil abstentionist policy until 1986.

As Wikipedia also recounts 

Sinn Féin adopted the “armalite and ballot box strategy” in 1981, and first contested modern elections in Northern Ireland with the 1982 Assembly elections, from which they abstained. They also abstained from the Northern Ireland Forum but adopted non-abstentionist policies for elections to local authorities (next held in 1985) and to the European Parliament.

But post-Belfast Agreement of 1998, Sinn Féin now sit in a Stormont administration in which all laws passed require Royal Assent before being enacted.

Given that constitutional position, perhaps it’s time for Sinn Féin to explain fully, for the benefit of their own supporters, why abstention from Westminster remains the party’s policy.

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  • andnowwhat

    I really think SF need to grow up and get in there. Do they really think the SNP like taking the oath. Whilst Neil has a point, leftist LD’s, SNP, PC etc. along with Labour could have an effect.

    I want an UI ASAP but in the meantime, that will not protect me from the social assault of a coalition of toffs.

    We all have to compromise for the greater good and I think it’s time SF stopped being so bloody juvenile

  • andnowwhat

    Here’s an idea, why don’t SF poll their electorate re going in to Westminster? Not the Ard Feis mind but asking their voters who are affected by this nightmare of a new goverment.

    There are lots of passionate lefties in the Lib Dems who I don’t think will hold the pact’s line. This is where SF can seriously help their people.

  • fin

    I paraphrased to suit the purpose! It is some years since I was in the east end but ‘bottle job” is indeed a cockney phrase, which is not to say it is not also used by others. Obviously when using the cockney version you drop the ‘t’…

  • Wasted Ballot

    thankfully a lot of voters aren’t as narrow minded.

  • Jean Meslier

    It’s good to see the UU(returned to the old name again)/DUP/Alliance and Stoops back to their plucky selves and doing what they do best — attacking the only party in the six counties which actively represents the views of Irish nationalists.

    My, but doesn’t this latest re-run of the old non-story, which is abstentionism, really fill them with righteous indignation.

    Listen my fair weathered friends, the voters of WB, NA, FST, MU and WT have presented you with your answer. All you have to do is open your eyes/minds and it will become clear.

    Now please shake off those post election blues.
    Why not try and get out more often?
    Or sit yourselves down in front of the telly, with a good stiff Irish/scotch whiskey and watch Cameron and Clegg roll out their plans for the immediate future, – minus a paddy, of any description, about the place.

  • finn

    I used the cockney phrase to make a point, and clearly it succeeded. I am not interested in continuing the cockney phrases’ beyond the point it was intended to make.

    Personally I think any MPs who ‘walks the walk and talks the talk’ for their constituents – all of them, not just the ones who voted for them, can be called a success in any language.

  • Wasted Ballot

    As much as I want NI politicians to actually fulfill their responsibility in the commons, the fact is SF are a very small, regional party that would not command any respect or influence in the chamber.

    One of the few things Margret Ritchie did right during the election was to make her campaign about representation. Time for the SDLP to step up and put the case effectively province wide. Westminister is going to have a more visible role in NI over the next 10 years with the budget changes.

  • Michaelhenry

    the S.D.L.P is a smaller regional party, S.D.L.P. supporters are to easy to answer back, SINN FEIN is an ALL IRELAND party.

  • robertemmett

    except dublin. is there any shinners left in Dublin?

  • Jean Meslier

    Wasted Ballot

    Fullfilling ones responsibility as an elected representative in the British house of commons needs to mean more than listening to the high pitched, dual whine of Mr. Mc Crea and Ms. Ritchie as it echoes around an empty chamber.

    These lazy, semi-detached abstentionists will be as invisible as they are insignificant.
    Tactical voting for the South Down and Londonderry party by unionists played a far more noteworthy role than Maggies “campaign about representation”.

    I’m also sure the stoops have no problem referring to terms like “province wide” now that the election is over. But it was all about keeping the shinner out – as aptly protrayed in FST

    …”the fact is SF are a very small, regional party that would not command any respect or influence in the chamber…”

    NB – Regarding Westminister — The above quote Wasted Ballot, if you live in the real world, refers to ALL of the 6 Co. parties. !!!

  • FSTciaran

    I can’t believe this debate has generated so much response – Sinn Féin Westminster candidates stand on the basis that they will abstain from what realistically is a foreign parliament and will not take an oath to a foreign queen. I for one would leave the party if this stance was changed and I know I would not be alone. It just simply will never happen. That would be a huge step back when Sinn Fein are about moving forward. Someone suggested having a “poll” or a referendum amongst the electorate who vote Sinn Fein but I think the fact that they come out in their thousands to vote for their candidate who they clearly know will abstain if elected speaks for itself.

  • fin

    Pipp as the phrases used were garbled and/or non-existant it’s hard to understand your point, ‘bottle job’ is not a cockney phrase, and the other phrase is ‘you can talk the talk can you walk the walk’ my point was we’ve heard plenty of talk talk from candidates about the value of been 1 of 650 in the Commons but will they be able to walk the walk and prove SF and Mick Davitt to be wrong

  • Michaelhenry

    thousands of SINN FEIN voters in dublin, same story across IRELAND, pity no other party can say the same.

  • finn

    I am not sure what your problem is. The phrase was not ‘garbled’, it was turned back to front to suit my purpose. If you do not understand that, so be it.

    I know exactly what your point was and I answered it: anyone who represents his constituents properly, all of them, not just the ones who voted for him, regardless of the location of that representation iie. in the Assembly, here in Dublin, or even if need be, and hopefully temporarily, in Westminster, that MP, TD or whatever is, as far as I am concerned, a success.

    It is not a question of proving anyone right or wrong. It is about full and proper representation.

    I think you are looking for an argument: Look elsewhere.

  • Wasted Ballot

    ‘what realistically is a foreign parliament’ says you sunshine

  • fin

    Problem, Arguement!!!!!!!!!!wtf, all i did was point out your garbled and made up phrases.

    and I never tried to start an arguement I just pointed out that the pro-Commons candidates had done the talking and now it was time to see if they could do the walking, far from wanting an arguement I have now no idea what your point was and your latest missive appears to be even more garbled and made up than your phrases cockney or otherwise

  • You are back with the same old ‘garbled’ garbage. Not an argument, oh no…

    If all you were interested in was the answer to ‘walking and talking’ you had it.

    Find someone else.

  • jim

    your voters arnt long running to the bru to collect their giros.the facts are most sf voters in w/belfast claim benifits.their mp doesnt represent them in parliment.the most deprived area in uk.u have to get over it ure british

  • socaire

    jim, lie off the ulster scots. I find your posts confusing enough in your Queen’s english.

  • jim

    that would be the same queen on the watermark on the giros

  • I dont care which side of the ‘pond’ you spring from. You have style! I suppose its too much too hope you are not a Dupper???

  • Reader

    FSTciaran: Someone suggested having a “poll” or a referendum amongst the electorate who vote Sinn Fein but I think the fact that they come out in their thousands to vote for their candidate who they clearly know will abstain if elected speaks for itself.
    Except what about the SF voters who used to be SDLP voters? Abstention was clearly no big deal for them while SF was working the Armalite strategy.
    SF has had to accept a lot of changes to get and keep those votes. So are you sure SF is still the same party it used to be? And are you sure there isn’t more change to come?

  • andnowwhat

    It was I who suggested the poll Reader. I’d love to know how many people consdier SF’s position of abstention when they walk in to the booth.

    SF have a fantastic reputation on the ground (sorry for the cliché) and that plus the oul usual that gets them votes.

    Blair was defeated on some of his draconian measures by close votes. This is not a joke. This is serious. I do not trust the ConDem alliance one jot.

    As I’ve said before, I want an UI ASAP, I have no time or trust of the Stoops but ther is every chance that every vote may come in to play (I’m including Lib lefties in this) at many points

  • Jean Meslier


    SF get and keep votes by representing people
    SF get and keep votes by showing clear leadership
    SF get and keep votes by operating well resourced offices
    SF get and keep votes by bringing clinics into rural areas where no political party has ever bothered before.
    SF get and keep votes by operating a policy of treating ALL constituents equally with a truly pluralistic approach.
    SF get and keep votes by representing communities long abandoned by middle aged, middle class, lazy stoops.

  • Cake

    Jean Meslier wrote: “operating a policy of treating ALL constituents equally with a truly pluralistic approach.”

    Not true in my opinion. SF offer the same bigoted politics that other Nationalists and Unionists do. SF represent (but not in Westminster) only their own voters and marginalise the other sections of the community. They promote division through the politicising of the Irish culture. They don’t want a shared future, they want a future that supresses their rivals. They don’t have the best interests of the entire community at heart, but instead the shameless self-promotion of the their own. They offer their electorate the deluded promise of a united Ireland and convince them that every election is about the border. SF are incompetent in government threaten to collapse the Assmebly everytime they feel out of their depth. Its time to move from the tired old message year after year…

  • Munsterview

    Cake……. you have certainly said it all……. about your self and your own kind of Empire throwbacks.

  • Cake

    Empire throwbacks?

    If SF really represent every constituent why then do they have the colours of the Irish republic on their election posters? The same goes for Unionists having union flags on theirs. To encourage integration?

  • Munsterview

    Republicans use the flag as designed by Presbyterian Protestant, Wolf Tone and Church of Ireland Protestant Russell, ( the man from god knows where) with the colors of green to signify the old Irish People ( it should have been blue) Orange for those like themselves of planter stock and white between.

    United Irishmen, Emancipators, Repealers, Young Irelanders, Protestant revolutionaries like Casment and Childers etc all revered and loved that flag including the first and also Protestant President of the New Twenty-Six County Republic.

    I and other Republicans like me support that flag on all Sin Fein posters, literature etc as we are proud to be part of the political legacy of that Protestant radical philosophy, of their generosity in uniting their struggle for Presbyterian freedoms with Catholic liberation issues and above all their desire of Peace between on all this Island as symbolized by the the inclusion of a white color between the other two.

    Respecting this radical protestant and liberal tradition and those who supported it as we do, why on earth should we include the ‘butchers apron’ that flew over the redcoated soldiers that murdered hundreds of these fine Presbyterian dissenters out of hand, destroyed their Looms and Lands, fired their houses and forced thousands of Presbyterian families to emigrate to the U.S.A. to get liberty, peace and prosperity when their prosperity and culture was wrecked at home in Ireland.

    Why should we insult the memory of these fine Presbyterian Protestants like Tone, Henry Joy and McCorley, Church Of Ireland Protestants like Emmet, the Shears brothers, the Authurs Brothers etc, Fitzerald, the Knight of Glin’s brother and Lord Edward himself, some of whom in to days terms turned their backs of fortunes of hundreds of millions of pounds to stand for an new just order, by including the flag of their murderers and oppressors.

    We are not the ones that dishonor the true Protestant heritage of Liberty or the legacy of radical Protestantism on this island. You and others like you should find out what your true history on this island is and not what your English political masters that used you and dropped you as it suited them, told you it was.

  • jim

    see u didnt mention pearse maybe his poems about young boys put u off.go back n read yer history books

  • Cake

    Munsterview thanks for taking the time to give me that very eloquent history lession. Growing up in the South I used to love to see the Irish flag as it reminded me that I belonged somewhere. After moving up North the flag represented something different altogether. It told me that I was not welcome in a certain area because I went to the wrong school. Its the same feeling that the bigoted tribal SF posters give, a reminder that certain social groups do not belong in SF’s future. Its exactly the same for DUP/UUP/TUV posters. Theres no shared vision were everyone fits it, its marginilisation and bigotry.

  • Munsterview


    I agree that there is no shared vision. How could there have been when the whole thrust of British Administration in this country since Emmets Rebellion caught them with their trousers around their ankles in 1803, has been to divide Catholic from Protestant, native Irish from Planter stock, Farmer from Landlord, town from country etc. and of course workers from everyone and from each other.

    How is it that this process, taught as part of University History coursed centered in the period throughout these islands is still largely unknown to Northern Protestant Working Class.

    We badly need a series of Television programs that will take these historical facts out of University environs and make them available to all in a way that all our shared history on this Island can be appreciated. I have been promoting these facts as long as I have been a Republican to other Republicans, I have never had intolerance shown for these views, just absorbed interest especially from Northern Nationalists.

    I can say the same for general Southern audiences when I have regularly given lectures over the years on these topics, the question and answer sessions often lasted as long as the formal talks such was the eagerness to learn more. We do have a common culture on this island, a rich and rewarding one but we cannot appreciate it, much share it unless we first know of it.

  • Munsterview


    One of the prime cards in the Golden Days Tharot deck shows a young naked male infant holding a fierce dark wolf on a lead and plucking a golden rose from a green willow tree.

    There is an explanation for that and ever other icon in that image, as there is for every other image on every card on that deck.

    The same applies to Pearse’s poetry and that of the other esoteric poems of poets of the 1916 rising also. Joseph Mary Cambells poem, “….I see his blood upon the rose…” etc can be seen carved in stone symbols in the vaulted celling of Rosalyn Chapel outside Edinburgh.

    In fact Rising was known as the poets Rebellion in the U.S.A. and fifteen hundred poets assembled in Central Park, New York to protest the execution of their fellow poets.

    As to these explanations, sunshine, you seem to have enough problems coping with basic political facts so I will not tax your thinking with esoteric matters.

  • wee buns

    on the symbolism of colour, interesting you mention the flag of the ancient Irish blue with gold, the blue was a particularly deep & rich hue, known to us painters as ‘prussian’ or ‘pthalo’ blue, heavy in a green tone (whereas other blues lean towards red/ purple eg royal blue).

    ‘How is it that this process, taught as part of University History coursed centered in the period throughout these islands is still largely unknown to Northern Protestant Working Class.’

    Em …would argue that the taig popluation of the six counties may be equally as uneducated at school level as to the correct & complete history. Why waste an opportunity for propaganda, all be it within the curriculum? Otherwise the young might learn, that in reality, there is little or no devision btween our tribes, furthermore has been significant struggle to assert that solidarity by the progressives in our past. This is not taught because this does not serve the colony. Perhaps the education minister has already addressed the matter of how history is taught: nil fhios agam.

  • Cake

    When I look at our history I to get wound up about the British oppression of my ancestors but bringing the bitterness to the 21st century will not, in my opinion, bring restoration. I get the feeling that SF would be happy with a united Ireland at any cost, even with a divided society without social or economic stability.

  • Munsterview

    Wee Buns
    (Did you see the remainder of the I.R.B/Jacobite Masonic connection posting I did for John EB and yourself ?. While doing some research last night I found it referenced with other F.M. sites and linked back to Slugger, the Net is amazing!…….. Got a little time to spare and a glass; well actually a lot and a bottle, then google this and peruse this at your ease, fascinating, a lot of facts and leads to more. ………The True History Of Scottish-Esoteric Masonry….8 Jul 2007 … The today untenable idea of an Ancient Wisdom Tradition that ….. )

    The old ‘Blue Banner of the Gael’ only ceased to fly in Ireland after the act of Union because those who flew it were seen as giving two fingers to the Crown and the act incurred immediate Crown displeasure.

    The Blue Banner of the Gael was an oblong blue flag with a The Cross Of St. Patrick, a broad white cross going vertical and horizontal. The Scottish flag was of the same blue with a white diagonal cross, the cross of St. Andrew, The English flag was white with a broad red cross, vertical and horizontal.

    The Scottish Flag was superimposed on the cross of St. George after the union of crowns to become a common flag. However anyone farmilar with Scotland in current times will know that the ‘St Andrew’ flag is everywhere there is an excuse to fly it.

    After the 98 Rebellion when the Act of Union of Ireland and England by The Brits expediency of continuing to systematically create new Peer after Peer and pensions of course worth millions in to-days terms, to the Irish House Of Lords until they simply had enough of a majority bought and paid for to vote the Union through.

    Then we had The Blue Banner of the Gael incorporated into the Union Jack also to give it the present format.

    Most, if not all the U.I. Leaders were also masons. The choice of Green rather than Blue to represent the Old Irish was for Esoteric reasons; these connections are not generally known. Others are just as interesting; the Easter Lily was brought to Ireland prior to the rising from Egypt by a party of I.R.B. coming back from South Africa having studied finance and banking there in preparation for setting up the Republic.

    As to education: this is a much bigger issue than schools alone. With all the money sloshing around in ‘Ireland funds’ some of it could be put to good use in first having an objective over view of history and this presented by Audio Visual and Lectures in local Community Halls etc. Culture cuts across many boundaries, during the height of the Troubles I stayed in the house of the first cousin of a then leading member of the U.D.A. It is a toss up as to whether I was in greater danger there or back in West Belfast the following day when my friends there found out where I had stayed the night before!

    I would love to see the faces of some of these Loyalist ‘Kick The Pope’ bands when they hear that the Pope of the Day totally backed William of Orange, that he send William considerable funds for his war, that he send a corps of drummers to William and that these drummed for him at the Battle of the Boyne, ( there were large War Drums in use Medieval Europe identical to the Lambegs, could their very drums be a legacy from the Pope, oh! the delicious irony of that!) or that the Pope ordered a series of High Massed sung and Church Bells rung from every church all over Europe to celebrate Williams victory.

    Incidently with regard to the Act Of Union and how it was achieved, the Planter stock that were opposed to it remained aggrieved for generations. Once in Dublin in the early seventies while I was involved in Cultural Matters, I went with some Anglo friends to hotel after an R.D.S. event. Some of the ‘bright young things’ home from the ‘ Mainland’ universities started braying No Provos!, No Provos! etc. when someone said who I was.

    One of the Old Dames came up, gave me a hug and invited me to join her and her party. There was an immediate silence, she then turned to the hecklers and said….. ” better a Provo than a Union Peer any day my dears ”

    Boy O Boy was there silence, some red faces and slinking from the room! For too long our differences on this Island have, as it says in the Proclamation of Independence, ‘…… have been carefully fostered by an alien people and government…’ Time to look at what unites and foster that instead.

  • wee buns

    Thanks for your glimpses through history, really enchances the site. the context & the issue.
    Yes thanks for the post re masonic & republican relations; found it facsinating, learned loads, which makes visits here worthwhile and furthermore sane.

  • Clyde

    I think that Sinn Fein MP’s should be tossed out of parliment if they refuse to take there seats. They have been voted in so they need to take the oath and take there seats. Otherwise they should be tossed out and a bielection done to vote someone that is going to take there seat.

  • Clyde

    The only flag that should be allowed on political posters in Northern Ireland is the N.I. flag. No matter what party it is becuase that is the country you are running for.

  • USA

    No capital letters, incorrect spelling, no commas. You “have to get over it” you are illiterate.

  • USA

    Fact – northern Ireland is not a country.
    Question – what do you propose when it’s a Westminster election and not a local assembly election, or in Sinn Fein’s case even a Dail election?
    Think about it and try again.

  • Joe Bryce

    Unionists (and of course nationalists etc.) should be able to sit if not in the Dail then at least in the Senadd. It should be DESIRABLE for us all to be represented in each other’s Parliament. The north faces both ways. Ulster facing only one way will never be free, to coin a slogan. Although not one that anyone should be hurt for.