“the ball is in Sinn Féin’s court”

Interesting to note that the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, told the NI Affairs Committee that he had had discussions with Sinn Féin about what would be required for them to take their seats in Parliament.  And, as the BBC reports

The Secretary of State has said that he has asked Sinn Fein for an alternative text to the oath of allegiance to allow their MPs to sit in Westminster.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has previously said that a change to the oath would be irrelevant.  But there was some kite-flying earlier this year…

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  • padraig

    They have managed to sell out every other principle they’ve ever held.

    I see no reason why then abandoning this one should pose any great difficulty.

  • McCarthy Óg

    What padraig said. Stormont is a British parliament/assembly, just as Westminster is. I can’t really see how they can claim that they can sit in one but not the other. It’s understandable that they’re trying to scrape for excuses as to why they can’t though, since it’ll leave even more of their traditional support realising that they really have lost the plot.

  • anne warren

    “Northern Ireland Secretary of State had discussions with Sinn Féin about what would be required for them to take their seats in Parliament”.

    Very clever indeed.
    A cynical attempt to boost numbers in Westminster?
    A desire to draw the horns of Republicanism?
    A wish to neutralize the so-called loyalists?
    A desire to understand and embrace citizens/subjects who vote for an abstentionist agenda?
    An attempt at all-inclusive government in the UK?

  • slug

    Although I disagree with SF I want them to participate. Westminster is important.

  • slug

    Nonsense – there’s really no evidence at all that their base is unhappy.

  • McCarthy Óg

    Are you having a laugh?!

  • slug

    Where is the electoral evidence?

  • McCarthy Óg

    Electoral success doesn’t measure whether their core support have abandoned them. Many people who wouldn’t have voted for Sinn Fein in the past now vote for Sinn Fein, and this is why the complete disillusion amongst their traditional support isn’t shown in the polls.

  • slug

    Well if that is so why are they not facing electoral competition in any form whatsoever for that base?

  • Bradán Feasa

    Theres is absolutely no way that Sinn Féin will take seats in westminister. Are ye nuts. Sinn Fein is a about the self determination of the Irish people. As simple as. Stormount is a stepping stone to that.

    It is elected by Irish people and it rules Irish people. while it is not yet a united Ireland that we are working towards it is a move towards it from direct westminister rule.

    Sinn Fein taking their seats in Westminister would be like a Dutch MP taking a seat in the National Assembly of France. Two different countries capiche?

  • slug

    Westminster laws do however apply to Northern Ireland while Stormont largely works within the Westminster framework. The analogy would be a Dutch MP taking up his seat in the House of Representatives in the Hague. Curiously, there are not specific geographci constituencies in Holland, people are elected from a single nationwide constituency.

  • McCarthy Óg

    Yes, it’s difficult to work out why parties that don’t agree with running for British elections aren’t beating them in British elections.

    Right now, republicans are in the same position as they were when the war of independance failed and the anti treaty forces failed in the civil war. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael abandoned their traditional support and did their best to put down anybody who disagreed, and those who were left behind were completely burnt out wondering what to do next. According to your way of thinking about this, every republican was happy with the creation of the Free State and partition back then, because they didn’t beat Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in elections.

  • Obelisk

    Oh that’s an easy one, the people who believe Sinn Fein have sold out have likely either given up on politics altogether or transferred their support to people who believe participating in electoral competition is part of the big issue with the north and use other methods in an attempt to effect political change (i.e. blowing stuff up).

    The size of this constituency is in question, hopefully it’s miniscule but I don’t know for sure.

  • McCarthy Óg

    Just like Sinn Fein taking their seats in Stormont being like a Dutch MP taking a seat in an assembly created by France in Holland which sought to administrate French rule in Holland then? Your own way of showing how Sinn Fein taking their seats in Westminster is ridiculous shows just how them taking their seats in Stormont is equally as ridiculous.

  • slug

    Well the number of votes cast is the appropriate metric, and that is small, so they have no democratic mandate as far as everyone else is concerned. When there is electoral evidence that the SF base is seriously unhappy it will manifest itself in SF losing votes.

  • McCarthy Óg

    Whilst I agree with you there Obelisk, I’d say that éirígí are the fastest growing and most effective force in non shinner republicanism right now, and they don’t “blow stuff up”.

  • slug

    Erigi don’t stand for election.

  • slug

    “Just like Sinn Fein taking their seats in Stormont being like a Dutch MP taking a seat in an assembly created by France in Holland which sought to administrate French rule in Holland then? ”

    The fact these analogies are confusing suggests that they aren’t very good. The analogy is perhaps more like an SNP or a SDLP or PC MP taking his seat in Westminster.

  • Reader

    Bradán Feasa: As simple as. Stormount is a stepping stone to that.
    How? What are the steps?
    For instance, if SF are seeking to build up support for a border poll at some time in the future by political decontamination; political participation; electoral credibility; and getting their hands on a few levers of power, how can participation in Westminster not fit the plan?
    After all, depending on whether a republican is on the Armalite or Ballot Box wing, both of the big concessions have already been made – decommissioning and accepting the Principle of Consent. So voting against the Cameron/Clegg budget in Westminster probably won’t create any more dissidents, and might eat into the SDLP vote.

  • McCarthy Óg

    Slug, we are talking about sinn fein losing its base support. A popular vote does not measure this.

    Imagine you ran a party which wanted alcohol banned. That was its main purpose. It’s share of the vote in the election was 8%. You then made the party not anti alcohol, and all the anti alcohol members were disgusted and left. The party picked up new members and supporters however, who liked the new stance on alcohol and the vote stayed at 8%. Those who left were leaderless and unable to organise themselves into anything, and so did not manage to challenge the party in the election at all. By your logic, the party was not abandoned by it’s traditional support, because the party’s vote didn’t drop and nobody challenged it.

  • McCarthy Óg

    That’s the whole point slug. Eirigi’s support is largely made up of people who are ex shinner and don’t like the way sinn fein have acted. You won’t see these people challenging sinn fein at the polls though, because eirigi don’t stand in those elections.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The SF policy is presumably based on having as little contact with British governance as possible and making Westminster as irrelevant as possible. Concnetrating on Stormo is consistent with that policy. The SDLP should be encouraged to join with SF and boycott the British parliament – that would encourage the British to transfer more powers – which if we are to believe the Tories may include the power to vary Corpo Tax Rates.

    …and if the so-called other ‘Republican’ parties in the South lived up to their annual-Bodenstown-ideological-jibber-jabber Ulster MPs would be represented in the Dail.

  • Frederick Chichester

    Smart? I don’t see what’s smart about Paterson seeking to underline the fact that SF now accepts the status quo. It could almost be designed to fuel dissident support…

  • slug

    None of that would change the importance of Westminster in our laws, economy, tax, security, democratic institutions and voting etc. Its head-in-sand stuff.

  • caelee

    everyone wait and see in time they will most definatly will take their seats,principles dont matter anymore as far as they are concerned,a large amount of money will be taken of them,their egos will be dented and i agree with everyone whats the difference between stormont and westminster they are both british institutions being ultimately governed by london and the spooks

  • slug

    Well I can see the logic to erigi as a campaigning party. But the size of SF’s vote in places like West Belfast does suggest there is support in the base. As pointed out in the Commons last night, West Belfast is one of only 3 constituencies (outof 650) in the whole UK where the MP was elected by more than 40% of the electorate.

  • McCarthy Óg

    I know a number of people in West Belfast who have left the shinners. Gerry Adams will always win a large part of the vote though, just like the leaders of the top three political parties in England are guaranteed an easy victory.

    Of the traditional Sinn Fein support, those who are left are those who have bought this “stepping stone” idea, and those who fear leaving SF due to fear of character assassination/losing their job/losing their status through the controversy. The rest are leaving in dribs and drabs and have little clue what to do once they leave.

  • Finbar

    I voted for SF and I think they should take their seats in Westminster.

    A UI isn’t coming anytime soon so why not represent your voters every now and then in Westminster? It can’t hurt anything. Personally, I would not see it as in any way abandoning their ultimate goal. They said they would never call a ceasefire until the Brits agreed to leave, take seats in a partitionist body, accept the Queen’s shilling, etc. Once you compromise you might as well go all the way.

    That being said, it’s not that big of deal to me. I’m skeptical as to what scaps they would really be able to bring back here from the big table. Barring any new party to the scene, I will vote SF again whatever they decide (unless they return to violence, which is out of the question at this point).

  • Charminator

    The whole waffle about going to London to ‘represent’ their electorate is total utter nonsense. I can perfectly understand why SF have made the decision they have and frankly I’d be surprised if, through a modification of the oath alone, they changed their minds. It’s also a bit surprising the remarkable familiarity with which this non-story surfaces on Slugger.

    Whilst the oath of allegiance is obviously an objectionable concept and completely out of sync with the principles of the GFA arrangements, unlike other institutions SF participate in (eg Assembly, Oireachtas, local councils), Westminster is NOT located on the island of Ireland. It is not at all unreasonable to think that a party who claims its primary aim as ending the Union with Britain could (finally) reconcile itself to participating in all present political institutions on the island of Ireland, whilst maintaining a principled objection to participation in political institutions in Britain. That may seem antiquated to some, but to a great many Nationalists/Republicans (in fact, the majority of them in the North), that reasoning is accepted.

    The realpolitik nonsense about attending Westminster (ie prevent cuts etc) is also a red herring. When has Nationalism ever managed to find a comforting ear at Westminster? (Need we go back to the Home Rule efforts…!?) The SDLP ran the last election on a platform of preventing cuts, but how on earth do three MPs, or even all 18 from the North, exercise any influence in a Parliament of such size? The phenomenon of a hung Parliament is so rare as to be capable of being discounted in all but ‘an every few decades’ scenario. Attending Westminster is a complete red herring and a waste of taxpayers’ money (far far more than SF current allowances btw… look at McGrady’s expenses).

    The few issues remaining within the control of Westminster can already be influenced by other means. For example, where it concerns taxation, an all-party group from the Assembly/Executive going to London in unison to speak directly with the PM (not Legislature) is likely far more influential. Where international relations/defence is concerned, Nationalists/Republicans can lift the phone to Dublin and request their concerns to be raised bilaterally.

    It is very misguided to think that Nationalists/Republicans (aside from the Afghanistan-hopping Thomas Burns of this world) in general have signed up to some ‘copper-fastening’ of the Union by partaking in all sorts of quixotic ventures like weekly trips to to attend Westminster. An acceptance of every facet of remaining British sovereignty in Ireland is and was NOT part of the GFA arrangements.

  • Charminator

    “Westminster laws do however apply to Northern Ireland while Stormont largely works within the Westminster framework.”

    Slug – I suspect SF might argue that’s something to seek to change, not accept.

  • Charminator

    It’s not ‘head-in-sand’ stuff at all. It concerns a fundamental conception of deciding the issues which affect this island in fora on this island. Why should all people in the North not strive for a full devolution of responsibility to Stormont instead of seeking to ratchet up support for SF to travel abroad (claim the attendant expenses, as the good Mr McGrady did) and further squandor taxpayers’ money in the process!

  • Charminator

    “Once you compromise you might as well go all the way.”

    No, you don’t Finbar. The essence of compromise is precisely NOT going all the way.

    But I agree completely with your scepticism as to what scraps – and they would be scaps – SF could bring home from Westminster. The very notion of people on this island travelling to Britain to determine issues which affects this island belongs in the colonial era. There is absolutely no reason why instead all parties cannot seek to achieve a fuller form of devolution, why representation cannot be legislated for in the Oireachtas to allow Northern MPs to attend, and why the Dublin-London partnership cannot be better utilised to raise any serious concerns which the Nationalist/Republican community may have.

  • slug

    Because the framework of devolution will always have to be determined at the centre, and because many issues cannot be devolved such as monetary and fiscal policy, as well as foreign policy, issues such as the number of MPs as was discussed on Tuesday, issues at national level of importance such as Claudy as raised yesterday by G Campbell at PMQ’s etc.

  • slug

    Head in sand stuff, quite frankly. Debates in the Commons and Questions to Ministers raise issues that get taken forward. Prime Ministerial time, though important too, is not always available. Laws are decided by votes in Westminster and the framework of law at Westminster determines and shapes what happens in each of the devolved regions-think about how student fees debate will influence what the Scots decide to do and how we in NI, being part of the same education market have to decide. The policy decisions in the devolved regions are greatly influenced in practice by the default that is set in England and Wales.Stormont, as Brian Walkers post at the top of this blog rightly points out, has shown little policy making initiative.

  • fin

    As the late great Sir Ceril said Westminister is the longest running farce in the west end.

    Perhaps a better approach would be for the NI parties who do attend Westminister to prove its value, the SDLP make big before the GE about the importance of Westminister and the DUP are the largest NI party there so perhaps they can show SF and the public what they’ve achieved.

  • slug

    ” The very notion of people on this island travelling to Britain to determine issues which affects this island belongs in the colonial era. ”

    Actually, its that attitude to London that belongs in that era.

  • Bluesman

    Sinn fein has lost all its radicalism. All those members who had a socialist republican standpoint have left the party – either to finish with politics altogether or to join other rep. socialist groups. What they are left with ia an over-the-hill leadership, who have totally accepted the status quo and a lot of post-ceasefire members who are only interested in securing a political career for themselves. Without a doubt they have lost their base and sooner or later they will attend Westminster.How sad.

  • Robo

    One obvious and very practical disincentive for SF to attend Westminister is that they would be 5 opposition backbenchers in a parliament of 650. How much real influence will they have? With an assembly focus they stay big fish in a small pond. As Gerry Adams once said in the election campaign “I do my business in Downing street” – he has a point.

  • Robo

    “Laws are decided by votes in Westminster ” – which SF will never be able to influence, so why go?

  • Charminator

    Thanks slug.

    You have suggested that my attitude to London belongs in the colonial era for suggesting that the very notion of people on this island travelling to Britain to determine issues which affects this island is a colonial hangover.

    You say: “Laws are decided by votes in Westminster and the framework of law at Westminster determines and shapes what happens in each of the devolved regions.”

    Good for you. You’ll know too that the North is not quite like the ‘other devolved regions’. You’ll know too, I would hope, that strand 2 is an equally cogent aspect of the GFA’s arrangements. You’ll know that the role of the Irish Govt and the specific recognition by Britain in an international agreement (the GFA) of the aspirations of the Nationalist/Republican community in the North to seek Irish unity also sets the North apart from your ‘other devolved regions’.

    I’m assuming you’re from the Unionist tradition, but in case I am mistaken and you are of the Lord Fitt or Tom Kelly OBE vintage, what exactly do you expect a handful of Irish Nationalist/Republican MPs to achieve in Westminster? And cannot it not more persuasively be achieved by a team of negotiators from the Executive/Assembly? Indeed, I think the optics alone of a DUP/SF/SDLP/UUP/Alliance team travelling to meet the PM (not the Legislature) to discuss tax or economy issues would be far greater! That would be real relationship-building here at home, when all people born and resident in the North, cooperates within Stormont.

    There is nothing that Westminster now decideds, that cannot equally be influenced by negotiation teams from the interested stakeholders travelling to Downing Street to raise the issue. What legislation passes Westminster WITHOUT Government consent!!! It is an absolute red herring. It was shown in FST to be wasteful SDLP waffle at the recent election and the sooner the party wises up and returns to challenging SF in a sensible manner, the better. Without such senseless suicidal thinking now predominating, this becomes less and less likely.

    The SDLP failed to influence the legislation on the devolution of policing and justice!! Indeed, spectacularly failed to secure that portfolio! What use was Westminster to their MPs in seeking change there? It is Downing Street, not Westminster, that SF must never shy from visiting. Fortunately for them, they don’t need to take any oaths to travel there.

  • Charminator

    Simple as really.

  • Charminator

    Not at all. There is nothing colonial in WANTING to decide issues as locally as possible. In fact, given the trend towards ever increasing devolution (and regionalisation at EU level), I think my notion of local decision-making is far far more 21st century than your 19th century notion of travelling to the ‘imperial Parliament’.

  • Charminator

    The framework of devolution is deciding collectively in a multi-polar context! The whole point of power-sharing is REMOVING ‘the centre’ as you put it, not replacing a Unionist centre in Stormont, for a British centre in London. The structure of power-sharing is embedded within an international agreement which, even your wonderful Westminster, is not at liberty to change without international repercussions.
    Don’t mind G Campbell’s ramblings… if you’re listening to him so much, it’s no wonder you’re deluded about the benefit of high-expense McGrady style trips to London. Next you’ll be telling us that expenses paid trips to Afghanistan is a sensible use of public money simply because Mr Burns happens to have some constituents who might be in the military!

  • The idea that SF’s base will somehow collapse if it takes it’s seats at Westminister, even in a technical sense, assumes that you could only vote for SF if you have an unsophisticated sense of political reality. That highlights the lack of insight of those who claim such (and explains why all the spin doesn’t do what it says on the tin).

    Either Patterson is floating this as part of the supposed discussions with MMcG, or he is partaking in the loose (and so far inane) attempts to undermine SF by playing to the dissidents. I don’t really think it is the latter, so maybe something else is on the move. I’d guess the formula will be quite simple – some token oath and members will attend some sort of NI committee meetings but not the chamber.

    Historically, that wouldn’t exactly be outside the box – everyone from de Valera back to Collins and on back to Hugh O’Neill pretty much did the same (although they all actually swore an oath to the Queen/King which SF seemingly can opt out of). Politically, it would challenge people and not just SF voters and those who will be ideologically outraged (as if it never happened before – see above). Jim Molyneux recognised the game-changing nature of the IRA ceasefires – unionist mythology has rested on two generally solid pillars – fear of what a United Ireland might be, and that London will remain faithful to the union. Financial reasons may test the latter (and generally finance has been the issue behind most British territorial withdrawls), but the former can only be defused by showing up the fears to be unfounded by actions rather than just words (whether brand SF, or the class of 69 at any rate, can still do that is another debate, maybe).

    So before the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater (and this is to republicans more than anyone) – what is the priority – the UI project or simply abstentionism as an end in itself?

  • slug

    Sure – regionalisation is certainly a splendid and good thing but there are different levels appropriate for some poiicies than others, and in London some major issues that get decided affect the other parts of these islands. So its good to have an input there on the broader brush but very important issues.

  • spige

    Robo

    ‘I do my business in Downing Street.’ (Gerry Adams)

    Going the whole cut to London just to have a shite, you’ve money to burn Adams but I suppose its better than mortaring it.

  • slug

    I think that under the GFA clearly the role for Westminster remains, because many issues (in fact the big ones) are not devolved. Thus while there are also North South bodies to deal with the cross border issues, the broad thrust of tax policy, higher education finance, monetary policy, the size of constituencies, a whole range of issues get discussed and this is an opportunity to explain to other MPs how these decisions and laws impact on own constituents – and of course legislation is often determined in oftentimes close votes. So yes while we have the Assembly for many matters, the assembly often picks up and implements locally ideas that have been debated and discussed in London – so the influence of London is important and having a say and an opportunity to argue and vote is valudable.

    Sorry for the snipe about your attitude to London belonging in the past – I thought it apt as its how it seemed when I read it – but I can see it was a bit cheap so I apologise.

  • slug

    IDevolution is surely about local administration of what is largely centrally determined public finance allocation in accordance with local priorities but within financial legal and economic constraints that are unavoidably set centrally. These constraints on what a devolved administration can do can be modified but there is no clear consensus on how they should be (if they should be) so having a voice and a vote on these matters is important.

  • Charminator

    Thanks slug.

    I guess my first point’s rather very simple. No one’s disputing Westminster retains a legislative function. What I’m suggesting is that it actually isn’t in Westminster that you influence that legislation. It’s in Downing Street: even ‘mainland’ British MPs seeking to influence legislation don’t do it from the floor of the house, they do it by seeking a meeting with Government to discuss their concerns. SF already have the passes they need direct to the legislative pipeline (eg Downing Street), why waste any time with the waffle in the Commons, particularly not in circumstances where they retain reservations about even sitting there in the first place!

    More broadly, if additional reason were needed, SF can rightly peruse the historical record of Irish Nationalism in Westminster and see that their ambitions and hopes have far far more often been frustrated, than not. Westminster’s persistent frustration of Home Rule proved the deathknell for the IPP… a great many historical lessons have a nasty habit of repeating themselves.

    But the proof of the pudding was the devolution of policing and justice. The SDLP sat in Westminster and in theory it was Westminster which legislated to devolve policing and justice powers. Of course, in reality – as the SDLP have so often protested – they were locked out of the process, because whilst it may have been Westminter which passed the legislation, it was Downing Street which wrote it.

  • Charminator

    Thanks John.

    I’m not sure the whole historical theme of Collins, Dev, O’Neill is quite as consistent as you’ve portrayed. There’s a difference between tactics and strategy. Dev adopted the oath, only to abolish it as quick as he could (which as we know, he duly did). For SF to accept the oath now, with absolutely no clear methodology for removing it in the coming years, is far less strategically inviting.

    But I’m also a little unclear as to your point re “what is the priority – the UI project or simply abstentionism as an end in itself?” The two issues are hardly linked. Quelling fears of a UI need not involve sitting in the British Parliament in London, it is not meaningless waffle in Westminster that will persuade Unionism, it is rather clear copper-fastened guarantees of their rights, culture, and identity (should the situation arise to negotiate this).

    With regard to Patterson’s motives… I wouldn’t be quite so logical as you and I don’t think your dichotomy holds true. There’s a third perhaps equally possible answer: he’s a typical Tory with little understanding and less inclination to understand the North, particularly Irish Nationalism/Republicanism.

  • Judy Fleet

    Maybe the BritGov has some offers to SF if it would take its seats which we don’t know about yet – for example a UK-wide poll on whether NI should remain a part of the UK.

    I have no doubt the majority of “mainland” Brits would love to get rid of NI. Those bowler hatted gents are an embarrassment.

    And for the government, getting rid of NI would
    1. ease the budget problems enormously (long-term). How much would the UK deficit be reduced?
    2. Electorate (mainland) benefits abound because they may not have to suffer as many cuts (at least in the long term).
    3. the NI loyalists are not in the slightest bit interested in supporting Conservatives, so they are useless for the Tories politically.
    4.At Westminster with the DUP gone there is one less group to parley with in the event its votes are needed.

  • Charminator

    “Devolution is surely about local administration of what is largely centrally determined public finance allocation in accordance with local priorities but within financial legal and economic constraints that are unavoidably set centrally.”

    These ‘largely centrally determined public finance allocations’ are set in Downing Street and Whitehall NOT Westminster. This is ESPECIALLY the case regarding supply bills! Let’s not delude ourselves with Athenian notions of where power lies. As the SDLP learned the hard way regarding policing and justice, you can waffle all you like in the Commons, but it’s important you’re involved in the pre-cooking in Downing St, not the theatre in Westminster.

  • Charminator

    “So its good to have an input there on the broader brush but very important issues.”
    As I’ve said elsewhere, sitting in Westminster – apart from having a nice wee record on Hansard – is absolutely no guarantee of any input. If real input is needed, make sure you’ve got cool Dave number. He’ll take it from there with the Commons.

  • I think the De Valera back to O’Neill analogy only holds in the sense that they took an oath tactically rather than because they believed in it or thought it had any inherent value.

    I think getting too focused on abstentionism as a policy is a distraction – really the need is to attract voters to supporting a UI – not Unionist politicians – by definition they won’t support a UI regardless so they will never be satisfied. While unionist politicians may be safe in the knowledge that they won’t be for turning, what is really at stake is a relatively small percentage of the electorate who may be persuaded that SF and nationalism can be pragmatic enough that they could act in their interests when it comes to guaranteeing rights etc in a UI (and unionists know this and fear any transformational moments that might arise – hence a truth commission is off-limits which also conveniently allows you to try to link McGuinness and Adams to any and every story if it serves a purpose). If token representation at some Westminister committee is an action that may contribute to attracting that vote we shouldn’t be dismissing it out of hand. Unionists biggest fear is that some of *their own* don’t buy into the union package anymore.
    Also – don’t underestimate the Tories – they feel capable of making moves that Labour always fear (in case they look weak) – remember Mason is often cited as the most anti-nationalist SoS. Brook and Mayhew were the ones to really get the current process onto tracks (and Albert Reynolds).

  • JimRoche

    Why require an oath at all? The people elect you and only the people can get rid of you even if you publicly swear allegiance to the Klingon Empire.

    All the pageantry and dress-up that the British surround their institutions with is out of place in a modern democracy. I understand the tourism argument and it’s fair enough but the ritualistic elements of the system should not impact on the democratic side of it.

    Having said that it’s a matter for the British to arrange their affairs to suit themselves and they shouldn’t change it unless they want to. Irish republicans certainly are not asking them to and I don’t see any logic in Sinn Fein suggesting the wording of an oath for the British parliament.

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    This is the type of thread that brightens my day. All the silly little republicans, eyes shut tight, hands clamped over their ears endlessly chanting the mantra ‘ There’s no Northern Ireland: Ignore the UK, there’s no Northern Ireland, ignore ……’

    If only they had stayed with the comedy and kept the guns in the thatch.

  • slug

    It may be possible to influence some issues through Downing Street – this is an avenue that all MPs use. But only for some issues. Many other issues – important to constituents – will be promoted by speaking and putting forward the arguments in the legislature as well as of course votes in tight debates. It actually a little shady trying to do things by backroom deals and Downing Sreet isn’g going to be interested in such deals on a wide raft of detailed issues that can be discussed in Committees etc.

  • padraig

    If Sinn Fein bit the bullet and adds Stromont to its long list of sell outs, the likes of Gerry Kelly will be able to afford a thrid Donegal summer holiday home to the two he already owns.

    So I think you will find a large ground swell of opinion from the SF grandees for the new sell out to aid the Noveau Riche bourgeousise such as the Gerry Boy.

  • slug

    That may work on the “peace process” issues, but the PM is hardly going to give time on regular issues in that way.

  • slug

    That’s just cheap jibes, padraig. It does not reflect well on you.

  • Reader

    Charminator: unlike other institutions SF participate in (eg Assembly, Oireachtas, local councils), Westminster is NOT located on the island of Ireland
    What’s your opinion on SF sending MEPs to the EU? Do you hope that there are no important decisions to be made there either?

  • fin

    unfortunately unionist mobs burnt the thatch on Bombay street and elsewhere, upon realising they didn’t have any guns in said burnt thatch they went out and got shiny new ones to prevent unionist mobs from burning all the other nationalist thatches

  • joeCanuck

    And where would that change be enacted? Why, in Westminster, of course.
    They wouldn’t contest elections; they do.
    They wouldn’t take their seats in local councils; they do.
    They wouldn’t sit in the Dáil; they do.
    They wouldn’t sit in Stormont; they do.

    See the progression? They won’t sit in Westminster; they will.

  • Politico68

    Sinn fein will definately eventually sit at westminster.

    When its a devolved assembly from Dublin.

  • fin

    Republicanism is international and means the same everywhere, all HMG need to do is declare a republic and I’m sure SF will give serious consideration to the idea of taking their seats, like come on its not as if the Brits haven’t executed royality in the past, and they don’t even need to stick a red hot poker up said royal bum this time just sending them into exile will do.

    Although it is really weird that the same people who objected to SF being in government in NI are demanding that they take the opportunity to be in government for all of the UK.

    Even weirder that the local NI Tory Party is trying to get the main Tory Party to change the rules to prevent a SF First Minister in NI while at the same time the main Tory Party is trying to get the guy they don’t want in power in NI into Westminister.

    OK lets put an end to it, SF will take their seats if they are allowed to have the position of SoS for NI and maybe one other cabinet post, MMcG as Foreign Sec or maybe Treasury or Armed Forces.

    Afterall Dave more or less promised the UUP\UCUNF a cabinet seat, unfortunately none of them actually got elected, why can’t they offer SF the same deal.

  • Charminator

    What regular issues are you actually referring to?? ‘Regular’ issues, as in health, education, planning etc are decided at Stormont. That’s the essence of devolution: getting the ‘regular’ issues back local.
    Policing and justice is the simple point. The SDLP sat in Westminster, watched the Govt steer it through and yet were impotent to do anything to change it.

  • Charminator

    Thanks slug.

    You have noted:

    “It may be possible to influence some issues through Downing Street – this is an avenue that all MPs use. But only for some issues. Many other issues – important to constituents – will be promoted by speaking and putting forward the arguments in the legislature as well as of course votes in tight debates.”

    It MAY be possible. It certainly is possible. It is Downing Street sets the legislative agenda. I keep banging on about policing and justice, precisely because the SDLP sat in the Commons, watched the bill sail through Parliament in a form they utterly disagreed with, and yet remained incapable of exercising ANY meaningful influence.

    You add:

    “It actually a little shady trying to do things by backroom deals and Downing Sreet isn’g going to be interested in such deals on a wide raft of detailed issues that can be discussed in Committees etc.”

    Let’s not be naive about the shadiness or otherwise of it. It’s politics, so that’s not a very relevant point.

    But what are all these other issues you’re referring to? Are they really that important? We know that tax and income issues are solely the preserve (in reality) of the PM and Govt, so if any influence is to be exercised there, it had better be long before the Bill reaches the Commons!
    What are all these issues that you are so exercised about to the extent that you feel SF need to waste their constituents’ time sitting in Westminster? Why not go the direct route on these issues to Downing Street or Govt Buildings, Dublin?

    Please cite examples of these issues, as the clearest example to me of the SDLP’s failure by sitting in Westminster and SF’s apparent success in influencing legislation through dialogue with the PM is the devolution of policing and justice? What are the key issues where the SDLP three MP vote has been crucial in defending their particular constituents’ in Foyle, South Down, or South Belfast – or indeed the North generally?

    Frankly, I’m at a loss to understand why SF – given their obvious reservations – would want to waste any time in Westminster when they can exercise far greater influence (whenever they deem it necessary to use it) long long before the Bill actually even arrives through the Commons door.

    Finally, if you consider it important sitting in the Commons, why not also the Lords? Should the SDLP now accept representation in the Lords too? After all, we all know the theatre His Lordship of Bell’s Hill set off when he took his peerage. But your analysis is as much a reason to go the whole hog and sit in the Lords as much as it is to be in the Commons. Why should the good Nationalist/Republican people of ‘Northern Ireland’ be denied their full representation in both Houses?

  • Charminator

    Thanks Reader.

    I’m going to give you enough credit and assume you understand your Nationalist/Republican neighbours well enough to be able to come up with a good answer to that yourself. I’m also going to assume you understand the workings of the EU well enough to know the role of the Council as well as the Parliament.

    But here’s what President McAleese said yesterday in Russia re our relationship with the EU. It might help you as you think about it and seek a deeper understanding with your Nationalist/Republican neighbours.

    “When we joined the European Union, some in Ireland feared that move would lead to a loss of sovereignty and that our national identity would somehow be overwhelmed. As a small colonised nation which had fought hard for its freedom and its identity, these fears were very understandable but have proven to be unfounded. Indeed, our sense of national identity has never been stronger.”

  • Charminator

    “Irish republicans certainly are not asking them to and I don’t see any logic in Sinn Fein suggesting the wording of an oath for the British parliament.”

    Couldn’t agree more with that statement. This whole idea is a red herring. I’m certainly not aware of any great clamouring from Republicans/Nationalists to send their MPs to Westminster. Where are the petitions? Where are the protects? I suspect they’re far more concerned about jobs, education, health cuts etc, rather than jetting over to London (often high expense too, see McGrady)!

  • Charminator

    Thanks John.

    “If token representation at some Westminister committee is an action that may contribute to attracting that vote we shouldn’t be dismissing it out of hand.”

    That’s the big ‘If’ I guess. Personally, I’d expect it’s far wiser to invest in relation-building ‘at home’ in institutions which we envisage to likely endure post-unity, than investing in a political link which we want to sever. By all means nourish the cultural, the social, the broader East-West links, but the very political nexus that is the clearest representation of enduring British sovereignty in the North? For good reason, I can understand SF will think once, twice and then a third time about any moves in that direction.

    I agree with your analysis about seeking a deeper understanding with Unionism though. I agree too about the marginal numbers necessary.

    Re the Tories… hmmm, we’ll see how cool Dave does.

  • slug

    Regarding the Second Chamber, the present Coalition Government plan to bring forward changes. Nick Clegg has made clear that this will involve elections. Under a leading proposal those elected will serve for 14 years (3 terms of a standard parliament) on a rotational basis; and will not take the titles Lord or Lords. I hear that a leading proposal for title is MSCP (Member of Second Chamber of Parliament). I would argue that in these circumstance the SDLP would consider taking up their posts there.

    Regarding the arguments you make, they are in fact arguments that, if taken to their logical corrollary, woudl suggest people should not attend legisative bodies anywhere in the world!

    While the big knock-down peace process issues are indeed the domain of the Executive arm of government, the committees and debates of a leislature are and remain places where arguments can be put forward, impressions made, committee reports written, and votes cast on issues that set the default for policy elsewhere on the islands (including the South, which is impacted by policy in London due to the interdependent nature of neighbouring countries in a world and Europe of freely moving migrant labour, capital, goods, students, media etc).

    I think we have rehersed the arguments back and forth enough and I understand your position. I am not saying its wrong but I am not convinced the SDLP’s position is wrong either. If anything, it seems to me the more sensible position, in the context of the GFA.

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    ….. and once they had their hands on the hardware it was back to the good old Scullabogue times again.

    Hey Endy, what’s the difference between a Cockeral and an Irish Republican? A cockeral lives by cock-a-doodle-doo, the Republican by any-Prod-will-do.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, that might work. Give the Irish Army real weapons rather than plastic knives and forks and invade them. They would never see it coming. But do it sooner while their troops are still overseas.

  • Charminator

    Thanks slug.

    “Regarding the arguments you make, they are in fact arguments that, if taken to their logical corrollary, woudl suggest people should not attend legisative bodies anywhere in the world!”

    Not at all. The arguments are made within the prism of Irish Republicanism. I’m sure you would agree that there’s precious little about the North and the connected relationships that exist between Britain and Ireland that are quite replicated anywhere else in the world. Westminster cannot be treated like any other mere Parliament and trying to distil this issue into a sort of run-of-the-mill thing dodges reality.

    But the big knock-down issues you refer to are gone for the moment. And if and when big knock-down issues arise again, it will be in Downing Street, all-party, and British-Irish dialogue that they are resolved. Not in Westminster.

    I note your failure to note a single issue in Westminster where the SDLP have achieved progress that could not have been achieved through the Downing Street route? Any issues at all? The prosaic nuts and bolts of parliamentary bureaucracy you cite, if anything, make me even less inclined to encourage SF abstentionists to travel to London!

    You have noted the possible reform of the Lords: but why not have SDLP peers there already? Lord McGrady of Downpatrick perhaps? It was good enough for the party’s founder and Tom Kelly had little difficulties accepting his OBE. It’s this whole Westminster navel-gazing, this incessant Westminster watching, that actually undermines much of the SDLP’s credentials. It chimes little with the Nationalist/Republican people if FST is to be taken as a good example.

    I would far rather see an SDLP pressing for active engagement in the Oireachtas. Reform of the Seanad to ensure Northern representation. Active participation in committees discussing the North. All-island voting in presidential elections. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking to ever-increase the range of issues determined on this island and this island ALONE. But not in a belligerent or aggressive way: in a spirit of full inclusivity and pluralism with Unionism. Instead of taking further seats in the British upper House, why not encourage Unionists to take Seanad seats in Dublin??

    A lot of what you have said regarding the South being impacted by London, committees in Westminster etc is quite vague. I think if we’re going to ask SF to give up abstentionism, there would need to be far far clearer and cogent reasons – like pointing to SDLP’s success in the Commons.

    As I said before, the devolution of policing and justice should be taken by the SDLP as a lesson. A very simple one. Neglect your base, sit idly by and watch your votes drift to SF, and there is a very substantial price to pay.

  • Charminator

    It’s a wee bit more complex than that Didlee, but thanks for your profound insights. You might like to cite Wolfe Tone, CS Parnell, Robert Emmet, Henry Joy McCracken, Ernest Blythe, Douglas Hyde etc as well… and they’re just a few that spring to mind.

    Bit more balance perhaps? Bit less rhetoric.

  • Reader

    Charminator: It might help you as you think about it and seek a deeper understanding with your Nationalist/Republican neighbours.
    Well then, the difference between not sitting at Westminster and sitting at Brussels is nothing to do with sovereignty, it’s to do with old resentments, is it? That fits with SFs ethos, though SF were also anti EU for a long while, weren’t they? Did Brussels eventually win them over to an acceptable loss of sovereignty?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    As Charmers points out a big bunch of stuff is carried out in Stormo and the British government has not yet found a way to resolve that old chestnut – the West Lothian – question. So surely it is time that Welsh and Scottish MPs (and Unionist and SDLP MPs) opted out of much off the Wetminster business (much of which applies only to England ayway) and they should only be required (if they desire) to turn up on (even more) limited number of days and of course receive half or quarter pay as there constiuents are already represented via Stormo.

    It is largely 2 people (assuming no double jobbing) an MP and an AM doing the same job – a waste of fecking money. So SF should reply politely to Owen and point out to him that in these difficult economic times he can save much larger whack than simply cutting the number of MPs by only paying the English ones the full amount as the other should be part time.

  • joeCanuck

    Nobody has suggested a form of oath here. Another thread, to be filed under humour perhaps?

  • Red Kelly

    Reading all the comments on here is like watching people rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic as it sinks.When the Republic goes down financially as it will in the new year if not before defaulting on it’s sovereign debt it will pull N.Ireland with it,like L. Cohen said “I have seen the future and it’s murder”.It should be all hands on deck right across the political spectrum to minimise the effects of the coming social and economic catastrophe on all the people of the island of Ireland and cease the squabbling.Ireland North and South is already haemorraging the best and brightest of it’s youth,cities like Toronto ,Boston,New York,Adelaide and Canberra are becoming home to a new generation of Irish emigrants and what makes it all the more heartbreaking is that most of these young people come from small families of 2 or 3 not like the emigrants of yesteryear like myself who left behind many brothers and sisters to keep the home fires burning so to speak.So I say to all the elected reps north and south get on with the job for the greater good of the younger generations coming up who have been left a legacy of monumental debt caused by greed and wrecklessness.

  • Robo

    At the end of the day much of the points discussed are neither here not there. This move by Paterson is just a pretext for removing SF allowances. He wants to take back the money and will do it by hook or by crook. Cash is not an issue for SF so in the end they are not going give up anything to keep these allowances. It is all about the money

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    Of course Irish Republicanism attracted a few useful fools from the Protestant tradition. Taking 1798 as an example Prods were represented in the local and national leaderships. However the footsoldiers were of a different hue. The ‘Pikemen of ’98’ grabbed the opportunity in may places to have a 1641 Round 2 and many Protestant clergy and the laity felt the prick of Catholic pikes.

    As the 19th century dawned Protestants in Ireland began to more fully understand that Irish Republicanism was not true Republicanism but merely sectarian nationalism.

    Small numbers of Protestants did continue into the 20th century to buy into the strapline, but then again there’s always one or two is there not?

    Hell I’m sure even today there are those who swallow the Shinners’ ‘Ireland of Equals’ bilge.

    As to your “rhetoric” jibe, having read some of the nonsense you post you’d be best to look to that plank in your own eye.

  • Stephen

    someone’s learnt gerry adams’ books off by heart. . .

  • Charminator

    Thanks joeCanuck.

    You seem to have suggested that Westminster is the engine-room of the devolution process….

    “And where would that change be enacted? Why, in Westminster, of course.”

    Eh yes Joe, if all you’re interested in is the rubber-stamping process of Westminster, rather than the ACTUAL DECISION-MAKING PROCESS of Downing Street. (Indeed, perhaps we should start visiting HM, as she’s got a ‘technical’ role in the whole parliamentary process too). Perhaps you could provide us with an example of legislation brought through Westminster AGAINST a PM’s wishes…. Good luck searching.

    Legislation is pre-cooked in Downing Street. If you’re not involved in the process there (as the SDLP learnt to their dissatisfaction regarding policing and justice), then tough luck.

    Also to reiterate an old point already explained before. To most Nationalists and Republicans, there’s no comparison between the Dáil, Stormont, local councils etc AND Westminster. This is for good reason, both historical and current. But even if that were not so, attendance at Westminster for any Nationalist or Republican MP is a complete and utter waste of time (and money in these cash-strapped times). The expenses Eddie McGrady clocked up alone should prove a warning against sending bumbling provincial accountants to the imperial Parliament without a very clear purpose. If Nationalist MPs couldn’t exercise much influence when Ireland actually did possess a significant number of parliamentary seats, what bloody hope do they have of achieving anything with 3 SDLP MPs wandering around the place (two of whom persist in double-jobbing).

    Moreover, the ‘attended Leinster House, attended Stormont etc waffle’ is as applicable to attending the House of Lords, as it is to attending the House of Commons. Why don’t the SDLP take peerages and sit there too? After all, it was good enough for their first leader. Westminster is a total distraction from the bread and butter politics that needs to develop in Belfast (and in local councils). If local politics can be improved, if decision-making can be improved, then let’s keep the devolution process moving, and stop the servile Westminster navel-gazing.

  • Charminator

    Reader, in case you didn’t understand President McAleese’s point above: the EU is perceived by the vast majority of Irishmen and women as enhancing our National identity. Our pooled sovereignty is and remains the voluntary choice of the sovereign Irish people. Irish MEPs attend the EU Parliament only because the Irish People sanctioned it.

    Contrast that with Westminster? Could it be said to have made Ireland’s “sense of national identity … stronger”, to paraphrase the President…?

    This has everything to do with sovereignty (as I’m sure you well know). And, for the record, what SF do or don’t think, is neither here nor there: I suspect abstention from Westminster is something which the vast majority of Irishmen and women understand and quite possibly even share.

    Finally, to avoid any ‘old resentments’ or the likes, I can think of nothing better than steering through legislation in the Oireachtas to ensure that MPs elected in the North, of whatever political hue, can sit in the Oireachtas to debate and participate. In a much smaller chamber they would at least have as much speaking time, and likely as much influence, given access to Ministers, of what is, after all, an equally sovereign Government within the EU. If it’s the avoidance of ‘old resentments’ you’re concerned about – and in the full spirit of the GFA’s arrangements – let’s make our political institutions on this island as inclusive as possible. (I suspect the Oireachtas wouldn’t even require any nasty oaths or the likes to be taken before Unionist MPs could share their words of wisdom.)

  • Charminator

    Eat into the SDLP vote? What vote? Tactical Unionists in South Down or South Belfast??
    And vote against the Cameron/Clegg budget? Why?? To hope to defeat it??
    Wise up, Reader. I hope Nationalist/Republican MPs have better things to do than wander around Westminster partaking in such a nonsense.
    If you’re going to encourage SF to go there, at least try to find some sensible, persuasive reason for it, rather than specious waffle about eating into the ever-declining vote of a moribund 21st century IPP.

  • Charminator

    Nobody’s suggested a form of oath because it’s not the job of Republicans or Nationalists of whatever hue to jump when Mr. Patterson says so.

    No one asked him to come up with such a time-wasting pointless initiative and if people had sense, they’d merely ignore it and tell him – what a great many Tories ought be told regarding Ireland – if you’ve not got something useful to say, then best say nothing at all.

  • Gendjinn

    I agree that Westminster is important. To Britain. It is absolutely irrelevant to Ireland.

  • Gendjinn

    I think they should take their seats…. in return for a couple of trillion in reparations and a re-united Ireland.

  • seamusl

    I for one think the idea of a new oath of allegiance aimed specifically at SF and other republicans in Britain is a good idea. Any device which makes Politics more inclusive of other view points needs consideration. Don’t forget that Irish nationalism as an ideology developed most considerably between the 1790’s and 1830’s when Irish Catholics felt alienated from the Irish and then British state. Identity is not a stagant idea, less we should forget about the Irish Jacobite tradition where Irish Catholics willingly gave their acceptance and fought for the Stuart (British) kings. Why did they do this? the stuart kings were associated with the pre-conquest Gaelic kingship of Ireland and could thus be linked to Irish Catholic and Gaelic culture, something which the present monarchy lacks. Possibly the monarchy would accept as its head at least at some stage in the future a catholic or an Irish catholic (Not perpetually) .Changing the constitution and having multiple oaths are a good idea, (identites can change look at the old English and Gaelic Irish). The British failure do develop a society that is inclusive of Gaelic and Catholic variations of Irishness, is equivalent to the failure of Irish Nationalists to develop a society incluisve of British culture of Irish Protestantism hence the Ulsterisation of Protestant politics and the creation and development of the two nations theory of Ireland. Both states (Irish and British) need to move beyond their past and inclusive politics is an important symbol that can transend antagonistic identities. Who’s to say that Britishness can’t become inclusive or Irish Catholics, nationalists or republicans become accepting of it . A middle way needs to be steered, and I for one think the allowance of a different oath for SF members is a good idea. If the Oath were to be changed and SF not take their seats still, I would tell the British public not to be disheartened, as a symbol to Irish Nationalists and Republicans of good faith it could win their support.