Back to Gerry 1

Just to add a note to Michael’s wrestle with the Gerry problem. Alas I was unable to answer the BBC’s very reasonable query this morning about G Adams who may have been the MP who never was and yet the MP who still remains. So they took the thorny problem to my friend and fellow townsman, Middle Temple barrister and strict legal constructionist Austen Morgan, no better man.

 Gerry Adams may have to remain an MP if he does not follow parliamentary rules on resignation, an expert on constitutional law has said.

Austen Morgan said that the British constitution is viewed as “sacred” and he did not believe the rules would be changed to suit the West Belfast MP.

However, the speaker’s office has indicated he did not follow procedure.

Far be it for me.. This is certainly one for the Clerk of the House. But in the end, despite its ancient and arcane traditions, Parliament is a pragmatic place and the citizens of West Belfast cannot go unrepresented and in limbo for ever (if you can be in limbo forever)

I would guess that the West Belfast seat would be declared vacant on a motion of the House, as if the sitting MP had died or had gone insane. I said guess. But they’ll find a way to wrap it, for sure.

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I suspect the MP (or non-MP) for West Belfast could not care less. Indeed if he did actually care……Id personally declare him insane.
    But “they” will have to find a way to wrap it. Not Mr Adams.

  • ben_w

    ‘Austen Morgan said that the the British constitution is viewed as “sacred” and he did not believe the rules would be changed to suit the West Belfast MP.’

    Austen can believe whatever he likes, but the fact is that they’re going to end up moving the writ for West Belfast without Adams becoming High Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds or whatever it’s called, and then he’s going to find the rules will have changed, the sanctity of the British constitution regardless.

    But it’s not as if this is to “suit” Adams, particularly. I don’t think he cares too much about the minutiae of the procedures of the House of Commons.

  • Cynic2

    The people of West Belfast elected him 6 months ago and are entitled to expect that when he entered that electoral contract he would represent them for the term of parliament. If he leaves them unrepresented then its up to them to make representations for being so cynically used

  • pippakin

    Actually I don’t see shy he does have to agree to be called the Lord Muck of Turd Hill if thats what they choose. It won’t be the first time he has been called names to suit the occasion and if he doesn’t care, that’t it, he doesn’t care. Its not like they would be calling him a mass murderer.

  • ‘Austen Morgan said that the the British constitution is viewed as “sacred” and he did not believe the rules would be changed to suit the West Belfast MP.’

    Austen can believe whatever he likes, but the fact is that they’re going to end up moving the writ for West Belfast without Adams becoming High Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds or whatever it’s called, and then he’s going to find the rules will have changed, the sanctity of the British constitution regardless. ….. ben_w 26 January 2011 at 12:54 am

    ben_w and Austen Morgan,

    It is my understanding, and can anyone please correct me if I am wrong, that there is no British constitution per se, to change, and everything is just made up on the hoof as they stumble on their crazy way, trying not to reveal that highly pertinent, impertinent fact.

    Is Gerry still collecting his MP paycheck and expenses every week, or is that all stopped if he doesn’t do as he’s told?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Listen to his broadcast on the other thread and the insanity option seems quite credible.

  • Neil

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/michaelcrick/2011/01/gerry_adams_makes_british_parl.html

    So in British law, Gerry Adams is still an MP, whether he wants to be or not. Until he applies for one of the two stewardships.

    I was also advised that one way Adams might get round this without expressing allegiance to the British Crown in any form would be to turn up at the House of Commons and try to sit in the Chamber.

    He would then be automatically disqualified from the House on the grounds that he hasn’t sworn the oath, and a writ would then be moved for a by-election in West Belfast.

    “The seat is vacated as if they were dead,” I’m told.

  • Frame

    FJH says “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.”

    So oaths are meaningless if you want them to be, except they are what they say they are and if religious they bind you.

    Flummery starts every morning when you put your clothes on but in essence is a ritualised often simplified way of doing or explaining things with historical and cultural origins. Life as theatre.

    Thank God for flummery even if it offends puritans.

    On the cash, as Adams gets no salary just the expenses he applies for, there will be presumably be no more forms submitted to the Speaker’s office and money duly saved.

  • Turgon

    “if you can be in limbo forever”

    It certainly seems to have been regarded as possible in the Middle Ages see Dante’s Inferno; though more recent Catholic teaching seems to contradict that view.

  • David Boothroyd

    It is true that the UK constitution is ‘unwritten’ in the sense that it is not contained in a single document. That does not mean that it is nonexistent. Many parts are in fact texts, and one of those texts is a resolution of the English House of Commons from 1623 which states that being a Member of Parliament is a trust and that therefore Members may not resign. That resolution was inherited by the British and then the United Kingdom House.

    It could be rescinded, should the present House decide to do so. But back in the 18th century a way round it was found, and this has now evolved into an unwritten understanding: that a Member wishing to resign will be appointed to a legal fiction office which has the effect of vacating their seat.

    The fact that the form in which a Member resigns may be offensive to the conscience of an Irish republican really is neither here nor there; no-one in London will lose sleep over it. The only problem it will create will be for anyone desiring to elect a new Member of Parliament for Belfast West; there will be no such election until the seat is acknowledged as vacant according to the UK constitutional understanding.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “The people of West Belfast elected him 6 months ago and are entitled to expect that when he entered that electoral contract he would represent them for the term of parliament. If he leaves them unrepresented then its up to them to make representations for being so cynically used”

    lol.

  • Dan Sullivan

    Would it not be possible for Gerry to make polite inquiries about one of the Stewardships and let the Crown pretend he had actually applied but that he would not be paid his shilling from the Crown or whatever it is. It could be his empty formula.

  • Thanks for that highly commendable reply, David Boothroyd.

    It is true that the UK constitution is ‘unwritten’ in the sense that it is not contained in a single document. That does not mean that it is nonexistent. ….. It does though mean that Gerry can do as he pleases, and in thus doing so, set an unwritten precedent that changes present understandings?

    Bravo, Gerry. Well played, Sir.

  • The problem is Gerry’s and his alone. No-one else cares.

  • Neil

    The problem is Gerry’s and his alone. No-one else cares.

    I think you’ll find that one person who really does not care is Gerry.

    He can legally hold both offices so if the Brits don’t figure out a way of getting him off the books, they’ll be obliged to pay him for nothing. How this equates to a problem for Gerry I’m not sure, he’s tendered his resignation and that’s the end of it.

  • Frame

    But he doesn’t take his salary at Westminster Neil, so we are quids in if he stays a Brit MP as he won’t claim any more expenses.

    And he will be plagued ceaselessly about broken promises to the good people of Louth.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    “Frame”,
    During the course of my stellar career before retirement, my job often involved court appearances (I hasten to add as a witness). On some occasions I took an oath and on other occasions I affirmed.
    Mainly because looking around a courtroom, it seemed no place for God (and that was just looking at the solicitors).
    Basically lining up to take an oath to Mrs Windsor and shaking hands with Speaker Bercow is meaningless …for many.
    Its a ritual which is the minimum requirement to sit there and represent constituents.
    It is an entirely logical view of some nationalist/republican MPs that they can take the oath. They openly declare their intention to take their seats.
    Its an entirely logical view of some nationalist/republican MPs that they cannot take the oath. They openly declare their intention not to take their seats.

    While many Sluggerites think that Mr Adams and others should be compelled to take the oath, it seems a bit eccentric to think he and indeed others like Dennis Skinner for example should actually mean it.
    The British would therefore be left without a “republican voice” (English, Scottish, Welsh) which would disenfranchise a large number of people. God would I suggest be very forgiving.

  • ORWELLSPEN

    but he doesn’t sit as a MP. his being an MP in absentia is as materially substantial as me’ saying since I am the Duke of Jupiter then I couldn’t possibly be Earl of Moon. People don’t need an Mp per se with issues. They have MLAs and councillers to turn to. Why can’t Gerry remain MP in all but name? Can’t he just employ someone to look after his mail etc?

    This is angels on the head of a pin

  • Munsterview

    “‘Austen Morgan said that the the British constitution is viewed as “sacred” and he did not believe the rules would be changed to suit the West Belfast MP.’….”

    My query has in part been answered : where is this much vaunted British Constitution ?

    I referred elsewhere to some hard left friends who were also insiders in British politics and they really envied the Irish and American Constitution and the certainties that the citizens had.

    If the Gerry Situation’ continue, the people of West Belfast will have a voice in Dail Eireann and a representative there. How many of them will object to that ? One irony here, whatever of the Brits doddering on the issue, if the ‘ex Sticks’ ? get into power as seems likely then expect them and Fine Gael to resolve the constitutional problem for the Brits very quickly indeed.

    An elected representative of West Belfast representing his people in the Dail indeed ! The very thought of it, what is next, a United Ireland ?

  • Mick Fealty

    This bit is in Erskine May Munsterview. But I don’t see a legal challenge in the offing, do you?

  • Munsterview

    I do actually if there is grounds, not particularly for the merit of whatever politics are involved but from the mischief makers not passing up the opportunity to discomfort and and embarrass Gerry and Sinn Fein.

    Lets face it, if I had the same opportunity against Dermot Ahern I would seize the opportunity to put him through hoops if there was a legal impediment there to be exploited.

    There is always a bloody minded fringe to politics,( and long may it continue) in Cork a group was put together and had a well known illiterate, professional town center beggar declared a candidate and got him elected just to get up the nose of the Patricians. And Boy did it work !

    ( Mick : that FF essay on the back burner, now would be a good time)

  • Munsterview

    For some reason this ‘Gerry situation’ reminds me of a Brendan Behan event.

    Brendan got him offside with the IRA in Dublin regarding the unauthorized withdrawal of a weapon from a dump, something regarded as very seriuous to begin with but he then compounded the offense when the gun was misplaced during a drunken spree.

    This was a very grave matter and Behan was duly summoned to appear for a Court Marshall, but now sober and thinking he decided to lay low and see what transpired. The IRA command were equally determined to send out a strong message, Brendan was sentenced to death !

    Having considered the matter Brendan had a drink or two the help his thinking process and then had the following conveyed to his O’C…..

    ” Yous tried me in my absence, yous convicted me in my absence and now you bleeding well shoot me in my absence too “

  • Comrade Stalin

    I referred elsewhere to some hard left friends who were also insiders in British politics and they really envied the Irish and American Constitution and the certainties that the citizens had.

    Obviously you surround yourself with people too clueless to understand that a constitution doesn’t have to be codified.

    I do actually if there is grounds, not particularly for the merit of whatever politics are involved but from the mischief makers not passing up the opportunity to discomfort and and embarrass Gerry and Sinn Fein.

    Completely unnecessary, he’s doing a great job all by himself. I am looking forward to many more TV and radio interviews.

    I hope SF continue to whinge about the sainted Gerry being attacked by the mean, nasty old media. It didn’t work last time so I’m intrigued to see if anything has changed.

  • Munsterview

    CS : was a time I took you seriously but then again FF made the same mistake with Brian Cowen !

  • joeCanuck

    Court Martial that should be.

    Joe the pedant.

  • Munsterview

    Joe C you are right : any relation to CS ?

  • Munsterview

    RTE TV 9oc News carried a story that Gerry have been given an official apology for misinformation from Parliamentary sources regarding his applying of or accepting Crown offices.

    Slugger apologies form the usual suspects to follow ?

    Keep it brief folks, it’s the thought that counts. Must get the English Indo tomorrow and that is a paper worth getting !

  • Munsterview

    Austin Morgan and myself are coming to this from two different legal perspectives and I am not obviously in his legal ball-court in therms of his general and specific legal expertise. Austin’s perspective is is concerned with procedures as part of Commons tradition, legal precedent and practice.

    My take on this is if the matter was submitted to judicial review could an arguable case be made that as the resignation did not request a Paid Crown Office explicitly, was the Speaker acting Ultra Vires in assuming that that request was implicit in the notification of resignation ? The correct term I believe was that the resignation was ‘silent’ on the matter.

    However silence do not at all times mean an absence of something per se. if by an individual embarking on a certain course of action, certain reasonable inferences may be deducted from that course of action then their intent was implicit.

    Looking at this application as a matter of law, it would seem that the Speakers next act and consequent acts were, were Ultra Vires and will have to be revisited.

    On one occasion I was in the Royal Courts building but I did not actually attend the court setting that I was interested in and as it transpired my caution was justified. A complaint was made by the British State that a meeting that I had with a third party about the case was an interference with due process and the Judges tipstaff ( or whatever the correct term back then was) came out and told me that the judge required me to attend court.

    I asked her to have the judge tell me by what authority he was acting and her presence I phoned the Irish Embassy and requested that they send an observer. I also contacted a journalist. The court messenger went away informed the Judge and was back almost immediately, this time with a demand that I attend Court immediately.

    I then asked the messenger if by the terms of her office, she was required to convey anything I told her to the Judge with terminological exactitude. The Court messenger confirmed that they were duty bound to do just that. A counsel I knew came by just then, I asked him to observe and witness my words to the messenger. He agreed.

    I told her to inform his lordship that I would not in any circumstances voluntary attend his court and I would legally contest the validity of of any summons issued. I then gave details of my brief hunger and thirst strike of earlier years. I finally told her that I my direct reply to his Lordship was that he was dealing with an Irish Republican and that he could go f*** himself !

    The messenger had a quite word in his Lordships ear. Much ranting and raving in court with all sorts of dire warnings as to what he would do if I ever came before him but no further action.

    Same here, Gerry may have been far more restrained and less confrontational in his approach. However this is no longer just about Gerry it is about damage limitations and protecting the ‘Wizard Of Oz’ antics behind the screen.

    A solution will be found and it will have little to do with the law per se unless the issue is forced in the courts by some of the parties involved with a vested interest. Anyone concerned about hoary traditions or the precious constutional practices to take out a judicial review ?