How do you solve a problem like Gerry?

Gerry Adams’s chicken run (a term admittedly used quite loosely) seems to have presented him with a bit of a problem.  He is perfectly prepared to follow the niceties of the British Constitution to become a Member of the national Parliament, but not to cease to be so at a time of his choosing in order to become a member of another national Parliament.  To me it seems a little intellectually dishonest to accept thousands of pounds in expenses by virtue of being an elected British legislator, but not the (one assumes) one pound to cease to be so.  But I suppose it’s a fairly moot point.

The trouble is that since the passage of the Disqualifications Act 2000 (to which I shall return at some point in the coming weeks), being a TD is no longer a disqualification from being an MP, and the traditional alternatives seem unpalatable to Gerry’s sensibilities.

So what are the alternatives?  Well it has been suggested that Gerry could simply show up at the Commons, and the seat would be vacated as if he were dead.  The downside of this is that instead of taking £1 from the Queen, he would have to give her £500.  Which might be a touch inconvenient.

Another option would be to choose one of the other disqualifying offices.  The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 sets out the law in relation to being disqualified, regardless of being in office or not.  Schedule one lists some of the offices an aspiring former member could apply for which would have the desired effect, including Charity Commissioner, Victims Commissioner, Equality Commissioner, Human Rights Commissioner, Judicial Appointments Commissioner and Parades Commissioner.

Alternatively Part Three of Schedule One included the Northern Ireland Agricultural Wages Board as a disqualifying office, the members of which being appointed by someone not unknown to the intrepid MP.  If one of the three qualifying seats there is not available, perhaps appointment to the board of the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company or Northern Ireland Water is another option.

Just a thought.

  • Cynic2

    But this is Gerrys problem, no-one elses

    Why does he need the Brits to sort it out for him yet again

  • Chris Donnelly

    Maybe Gerry could give the seat to your party, Michael. After all, Sinn Fein might soon have a few seats to spare across the island and, erm, we know that’s not the case for the Ulster Unionists…..

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im no big fan of Gerry Adams. But it seems these odd threads about being a MP and resigning/not resigning/officer of the Crown etc is all good knockabout fun.
    The only people taking the issue seriously are the thread starters.
    But Im with Mr Adams on this. He was elected MP for West Belfast at the behest of the electorate of West Belfast. He has not actually taken any oath (and fair play to Mark Durkan for not taking it seriously either) and he is doing republicans in England, Scotland, Wales a favour by not asking for anything.
    The ball is in Westminsters court. In six weeks Gerry Adams is more likely than not to be TD for Louth. I may or may not like it but its in THEIR gift.
    Not Mrs Windsors.

  • It’s a pity we couldn’t agree on the obvious, that on this occasion it is the British Parliamentary system that looks daft.Is West Belfast really to be denied a by-election to preserve an idiotic old ritual?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Rather surprising that Mr Adams didn’t get his investment banker chum and former speech-writer Jonathan Powell to pen the resignation letter for him and keep him straight on the British establishment protocol.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Its the role of Republicans to make the British Constitution look stupid.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gerry Adams’s chicken run (a term admittedly used quite loosely) seems to have presented him with a bit of a problem.

    It must be a nice problem to have.

  • Nunoftheabove


    Oh I think the Brits can manage that task all on their own just fine mate – kind of the provos to help out, though.

    (Male Preference) Primogeniturily yours,

    The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod et al

  • Comrade Stalin

    The ball is in Westminsters court.

    Nope. Gerry will remain the sitting MP and no by-election will be held. Accordingly by his actions Gerry is acting to deprive West Belfast of representation. Not, by many accounts, that his representation amounted to much in any case.

  • alan56

    Dilemma is a product of the British ‘unwritten’ constitution. Would probably require an act of parliament to facilitate this. With parliamentary time at a premium this issue is unlikely to be a priority,

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As the people of West Belfast knew that Mr Adams would not be taking his seat, it hardly matters that hes ……er not there. The successor that he appears to be depriving them of…….wouldnt be there either.

  • Pete Baker

    “Gerry will remain the sitting MP and no by-election will be held. Accordingly by his actions Gerry is acting to deprive West Belfast of representation.”

    Indeed, Comrade.

    All he’s told the Speaker in his letter is that he no longer intends to meet the responsibilities of being an MP.

    That’s entirely up to him. He could have just stopped doing the job and not told anyone. It would have had the same effect.

    He and his party can explain that to the constituents.


    I might have had some sympathy if Gerry was retiring from public life for health reasons, or if he thought he could not do the job of an elected rep for some other reason.

    But his actions are entirely selfish and/or party politically expedient.

    That’s not a good enough reason to rewrite “a settled principle of parliamentary law”.

    And let’s be clear here.

    He’s being treated in exactly the same way that any other person would be in similar circumstances.

    When what he actually wants is special treatment.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Can Adams be subject to legal challenge on this and what happens if they refuse to switch off his expenses unless or until he resigns ‘properly’ – stalemate ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dilemma is a product of the British ‘unwritten’ constitution.

    I wish people would stop repeating this. Britain’s constitution is very much written, in a long series of Acts of Parliament.

    The law in question here preventing Gerry from resigning is very much written.

  • Is it a crisis yet? Gerry hasn’t had a crisis in a while. There isn’t a problem. It is Gerry who wants something having made a commitment on which he cannot deliver without becoming the British Parliamentarian he doesn’t want to be (apart from the expenses). Useful wave of the wee green flag with an election coming up and all that.

    As he is never at Westminster who cares whether he is there or in another Parliament. Saves the cost of a by-election. His contribution to reducing the national debt.

    Seems good tome to revisit expenses for abstentionist MPs though.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    So theres an abstentionist MP who doesnt want to be a MP and he tells that to the House of Commons and they say you have to go thru a sham application for the Chiltern Hundreds (actually most MPs would claim the Chiltern Thousands) and he says he cant be arsed.
    Meanwhile West Belfast who did not actually want a MP to be in the Commons is deprived of electing another MP who doesnt want to be there either.
    Meanwhile people who couldnt find West Belfast witha satnav are outraged……on behalf of the people of West Belfast.
    Like I said Im no big fan of Mr Adams but surely he is saving us all some money.
    We get an abstentionist MP without going to the expense of having an election.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Comrade Stalin

    This particular bit might well be but not all of it is contained in Acts of Parliament mate and not all of it is actually explicitly written at all.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    A good Sinn Féin tactic would be for the remaining four SF MPs to write the same letter to the House of Commons. Just say “cant be arsed”. Thus five constituencies would “not be represented” . Presumably they can all still claim expenses as their resignations are invalid.
    And there is only a little more than four years to the next election.

  • Drumlins Rock

    As I have stated previously Adams could be appointed to the “Northern Ireland Agricultural Wages Board” quite easily and that would do the trick, he would have no objection on principle to that I am sure, and it is a meaningless quango that needs scrapped anyways, it would be an “office of profit under the Crown”, but I can see some farmers objecting about someone with no agricultural experience setting the work rate.
    Alternatively he could be appointed “Steward of Northstead” which is almost as useless as the former, like the Wages board the role outlived its purpose years ago, but was retained for exactly this purpose, to make it EASY to resign from parliament.
    Means there is no confusion, ie. if Gerry wrote “I resign as MP for Belfast as I want to sit in the Dail instead”, would that mean he resigns when he is nominated, elected, or takes his seat? or an MP could huff and say “Dear Speaker, if the member for East Antrim does not withdraw his insults I will resign” is that a resignation or not? The current system is simple and clear despite being wrapped up in some archaic language.
    So Gerry WHAT IS THE ISSUE ???

  • Blue Hammer

    I may be barking up entirely the wrong tree, but my understanding is that it is being an MP that disbars anyone from election to the Dail.

    So the problem is not a UK one, but rather what the RoI does if or when a disqualified person is elected to their legislature.

  • George

    Blue Hammer,
    there is no such bar, it’s discussed and explained on one of the other Adams threads. Adams has a free run at the Dáil regardless of what happens in this Westminster bun fight.

    I really don’t understand this Westminster thing. From what I can see the only people who seem to really care about this thing are the same people who have a problem with his abstentionism in the first place.

  • sdelaneys

    I was also of the opinion that being a member of another parliament disbars a person from holding a Dail seat.

  • sdelaneys

    So, George, a member of any parliament can run for and hold a seat in the Irish parliament also? That is weird and so illogical that it is probably true. On the abstentionist thing, I’m a firm supporter of abstentionism from Westminster by Irish republicans or nationalists.

  • Marcus McSpartacus

    When you say “British Constitution”, what you actually mean is one or more British laws that you are others hold in high esteem. Good for you.

    In the US, as in Ireland, the “Constitution” actually means something rather more concrete: the fundamental law by which other laws and the legislature must comply.

    Let’s not try and dress this up as something serious and important as state encroachment of the US First Amendment, or the ramifications of Irish Article 29 on the bailout.

    These are actual “Constitutional” issues, as opposed to a rhetorical/political brickbrat.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    So Adams has “resigned” but as its not the conventional (and stupid) way these things are done, he has not really resigned at all.
    This annoys people who liked the cheap laugh at him applying for an office under the crown.
    The same people now purport to be angst ridden that his non resignation means the people of West Belfast are deprived of a MP.
    The balance of probabilities is that the choice (if given) would fall to another abstentionist MP who would incur the wrath of the same folks for being an abstentionist.
    So there will be a SF MP for West Belfast (Adams) NOT at Westminster AND a SF TD for Louth (the same Mr Adams) in the Dáil.
    I cant see any way that Mr Adams, Sinn Féin or the people of West Belfast are in any way inconvenienced by this.

  • George

    being a member of any parliament (British or otherwise) is irrelevant, the measure used by the Constitution is whether the person is an Irish citizen, which Adams is. Those barred by statute are listed here:

    Adams doesn’t fit any of the criteria. As I pointed out elsewhere, he does have to give an oath that he will take his seat if elected, otherwise he can’t even stand for election.

    Maybe the British could consider that one when looking for ways to prevent this sort of thing in the future. They do seem to love an oath after all.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The thing is to get out of this dilemna, the British need to pass legislation……either to “outlaw” abstentionism OR make resignation conform to 21st century norms.

  • Rory Carr

    I just love it that all the pro-unionist and anti-republican commenters are running around like importunate beggars holding out their offers of offices of profit to Gerry crying, “Take this, effendi! Beautiful little job on the Agricultural Board. No – you don’t like? How about the Water Board ? Very nice. No? Transport, you like Transport?…”

    They are so desperate that he not be allowed to get away with ignoring the moribund traditions of a parliament which he was elected not attend that they continue to make fools of themselves with their silly little formulae that they hope will entice him to solve their problem.

    That’s the trouble with those pesky republicans – they just won’t behave like good, well behaved little unionist boys (and some others, not unionists, whom I will not mention for fear of embarrassment).

    I can just imagine Sir Humphrey making his desperate appeal, “Please, please, Mr Adams, you are making the whole British constitution look ridiculous.”

    As Pete Baker might say, “Quite.”

    But the suggestion I was most taken with came from the left side of the brain of Nunoftheabove who wondered if the House of Commons might ” refuse to switch off his expenses unless or until he resigns ‘properly’ “.

    As Bob Newhart once requested, “Run that by me again, Walt.”

  • Frame

    FJH says Gerry Adams “is doing republicans in England, Scotland, Wales a favour by not asking for anything”.

    Not so. He soaked up all the allowances and offices Westminster has on offer. And he duly filled in the hateful British forms they required of him.

    Asking for the Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead is a small price to pay and if he won’t, so be it. He can now be an absent abstentionist MP and we will be saved the cost of a by-election in West Belfast.

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, I would agree with you on the abstentionism, that is the way thing are in the Republic I believe, however it has NOTHING whatsoever to do with his resignation, its a completely separate subject so leave that for another day.

    The method of resignation is a tiny formality using some obscure names, if they called it a “Discretionary State Position” such as “Chief Paperclip officer” would that do? that all it amounts to. As I have said above it is a very SIMPLE process, not open to misunderstanding so why change it to something more complicated and open to confusion?

    BTW in Australia, even a teacher on Paid Leave counts as an Office of Profit Under the Crown.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Exactly Mr Carr…..its a bit like the scene in Blazing Saddles where the Sheriff threatens to shoot himself and the townspeople who all want to shoot him say “I think he means it”.
    Gerry has resigned by the rather obvious way of writing a letter and the The Speaker (hes not f***ing Royalty) says no you havent resigned. And Adams says “ok suit yerselves…….Im off.”
    Meanwhile the people agonising about the democratic rights of the people of West Belfast would not like a solution that involves entering the 21st century.
    Rather they would prefer a solution which meant that an elected person was compelled to take his/her seat……….er regardless of the wishes of the people of West Belfast with whose rights they are so concerned.

  • pippakin

    Its really not possible to pick and choose which bit of parliamentary procedure a representative agrees to recognise, and that applies to any representative of any government anywhere in the democratic world.

    It would be a good thing if Gerry Adams learns that before he gets to the Dail after all not so long ago SF did not deign to recognise the Dail.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Drumlins is the role of any republican/nationalist to undermine the trappings of monarchy/unionism NOT to support them. There is of course a difference in nuance between the major nationalist/republican parties (and indeed Id argue that the SDLP way is as effective in its own way). Its a pincer movement basically.

  • sdelaneys

    George, thanks for the link ; very interesting.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This annoys people who liked the cheap laugh at him applying for an office under the crown.
    The same people now purport to be angst ridden that his non resignation means the people of West Belfast are deprived of a MP.

    I’m not one of them. The people of West Belfast got the representation they voted for time and time again. They must be happy with it, and indeed happy that Adams is prepared to take them for granted by standing down having only been re-elected eight months ago.

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, how on earth is that undermining the monarchy/unionism? will all nationalist civil servants, judges, quango members, whatever resign because they hold “offices of profit under the Crown”? pincer movement me arse! its idiotic!

  • Rory Carr

    “Its really not possible to pick and choose which bit of parliamentary procedure a representative agrees to recognise…” says Drumlins Rock, wishing to the high heavens that it were true. But as Gerry Adams has demonstrated such restrictions apply only to those who seek preferment within the system, they have no meaning for those who were elected to deny the very authority of that system. Adams was so elected and the niceties of Westminster parliamentary procedure are of no concern to him or his constituents.

    p.s. FJH – I really liked your Blazing Saddles quip.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Drumlins Rock… indeed I might hold one myself (though not much profit to be honest). The procedure for resigning as a MP is a very silly ritual and like all things involving the monarchy looks very silly when a light is shone on it.
    And of course being a civil servant, judge, quango member does not disqualify the office holder from being a MP. Indeed Im tempted.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thank you Mr Carr…..I am a Western movie fan. It seemed an appropriate example.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Drumlins is the role of any republican/nationalist to undermine the trappings of monarchy/unionism NOT to support them.

    There are plenty of republicans taking their seat in the House of Commons. And Sinn Fein Ministers actively vote for bills to be forwarded for Royal Assent.

  • pippakin

    Rory Carr

    Er, not Drumlins Rock, and it is true. Fear not however the Brits will let him off the hook they always do.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin
    Youre confusing real politics with nonsensical flummery. Clearly SDLP for example take a view on how best the nonsensical aspects can be dealt with.
    Sinn Féin takes a view which is different.
    Republican dissident nihilists take another view.
    Perhaps nationalist/republican members of the Alliance Party take another view.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Youre confusing real politics with nonsensical flummery.

    I’m not. Flummery is what the SF abstention policy is.

    Clearly SDLP for example take a view on how best the nonsensical aspects can be dealt with.

    I’m glad you mentioned the SDLP. By taking the oath aren’t they failing in their duty as nationalist/republicans ? I say that because you characterized the SF position on this as being part of that duty.

  • joeCanuck

    I can’t wait until they make a film about this major constitutional crisis. Oscars will abound.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The SDLP take the view as I would that its better to be inside the Commons than out. Personally Id go the Durkan route of only taking the oath to accomodate representing people.
    The words are meaningless. When I take an oath in court I take it seriously but the Commons oath is meaningless.
    While margaret Ritchie does not have a preamble to her oath it does not mean she takes it seriously. Id be surprised if she did.
    Its the minimal legal requirement to take a seat.
    As yet despite offers no SDLP member has taken a seat in the Lords.
    And as far as Im aware only one SDLP counillor has a bauble from Mrs Windsor.
    My point being that nationalists/republicans have differing views on the minimum required.

  • joeCanuck

    What about Gerry Fitt?

  • George

    Drumlins Rock,
    Update regarding the abstentionism in the Republic issue:

    I’ve been checking that standing order dating back to 1927 requiring an oath to take your Dáil seat if you want to stand that I posted up yesterday.

    I’ve done some further digging as It’s so old and although I don’t see it repealed anywhere I have found one amendment from 1933 stating that it is subject to Dáil standing orders rather than the old Free State constitution.

    There is also no mention of it in the 1992 electoral act which is odd as that would be the natural place for it.

    None of this means it’s not still in place but it would be good to get confirmation from anyone who has stood for Dáil Éireann to hear whether the signed affidavit is still necessary.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    What about Gerry Fitt?
    He left the SDLP in 1979. He contested West Belfast in 1983 as some kinda “socialist” He came third to Gerry Adams SF and Joe Hendron of SDLP.
    He was subsequently appointed to the “Lords”.
    No SDLP member has taken a seat in the Lords.
    “Lady” O’Loan who is of course English and although not a member of SDLP is married to one.

  • joeCanuck

    Ok, FJH. My misunderstanding.

  • 241934 john brennan

    How do you solve a problem like Gerry?

    Well the world is his oyster:

    Get elected TD – leader of SF in the Dail.

    Sign on at the House of Commons- leader of SF in Westminster

    Co-opt himself back into Stormont – As SF leader, nominate himself DFM.

    All before the end of February.

    “And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew ……………..”

  • Couldn’t Gerry find some harmless law to break – one that would then disqualify him from being an MP? I’ve very strong grounds to suspect that he hasn’t been doing his archery practice on a Sunday (er… that is still illegal, isn’t it?)

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I”ts really not possible to pick and choose which bit of parliamentary procedure a representative agrees to recognise,”

    As GerryAdams has proven for most of his political life you can do exactly that.

  • Mick Fealty


    Welcome back! You’ve been away too too long!!

  • Drumlins Rock

    possibly Pat, but when you look at West Belfast, maybe you need to ask what has he achieved by doing so?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    A harmless law to break?
    Well of course he can just sit or not sit tight.
    (Even David Cameron in answer to Nigel Dodds did not say that expenses would be withdrawn by the way)
    But minor laws to break Mr Evans? A very bad precedent surely but theres a growing list of socialist parliamentarians Eric Isley MP, David Chayter ex MP and now Tommy Sheridan MSP who could teach Mr Adams all about law breaking and parliamentary procedure.

  • pippakin

    Pat Mc Larnon

    Has he?

    He was elected and as far as I can remember that is the only thing he has ever done in terms of any kind of procedure, anywhere, mind you he did jump the queue to shake hands with George Bush, I suppose that might count with some as a break with procedure.

  • slappymcgroundout


    The solution is to simply pass a law allowing for resignation (with the reason being irrelevant). Then the law says that in any instance of such resignation, within x number of days, the party to which the resigned member belonged at the time of her/his resignation must submit the name of a replacement, who shall serve until the next election. The party can decide for itself how it wants to select the person, i.e., the head of the party can be granted the power (by the party) to select the replacement or there can be a party vote or whatever. The law then provides that some individual in the House of Commons has the power to accept the submission and “appoint” the person to the office. More or less the same way that Gerry’s Stormont seat was filled. By the way, that’s the other insanity here, i.e., not only is it insane to not simply accept the resignation of one who no longer wishes to serve, but Stormont hasn’t exactly fallen apart because the one fellow named Sheehan was subbed in for Gerry.