McGuinness follows Adams to become Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead

Updated with a photo of the letter.

Six a half months after announcing that he would resign as MP for Mid-Ulster to concentrate on being deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness today finally announced that he’d sent his letter to the Commons to kick of the process.

Back in January 2011, Gerry Adams was disqualified as a Member of Parliament when the Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed him as “Steward and Bailiff of Her Majesty’s Manor of Northstead in the county of York”. It was an unusual piece of parliamentary process as departing MPs normally apply to be appointed to the two positions – Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds and the Manor of Northstead – that disqualify them as MPs and allow them to ‘resign’. In the case of the West Belfast MP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed Adams to the position without him applying.

The resulting discussion in the Commons included a comment from Sammy Wilson about “the shabby way in which this has been handled in order to avoid the embarrassment of Sinn Féin”.

Something similar will probably now happen for Martin McGuinness when the Commons returns on 7 January.

Following a resignation – and usually within three months – the Electoral Commission guidance suggests that “a motion is customarily moved by the chief whip of the party that formerly held the seat” and then “the Speaker then makes out his warrant for the issue of a writ for the election of a new Member”. In the case of abstentionist Sinn Féin, the motion will have to be moved by someone from another party. The by-election takes place on a Thursday (by convention) between 15 and 19 working days after the writ is moved.

In the meantime, Francie Molloy’s campaign is underway. Though someone might want to remind Sinn Féin how to spell by-election …

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  • doop

    Or some one should tell slugger that it can be spelt as either by or bye.

  • I’m struggling to find a link to anything in the UK describing a “bye-election”. It may be an old alternative spelling, but it’s certainly not one in common usage! Elsewhere on the SF website, they refer to “by-election”

  • Comrade Stalin

    What’s with SF’s weird purple colours ?

    I’ve seen bye-election used before, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

  • Henry94

    I assume McGuinness wrote to the speaker as Adams did and now we will have to endure the Funny Hat routine from all those who think pretending republicans have applied for some makey-up post is embarrassing for SF rather than for the people who waste their time on such servile backwardness.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Ouch! Does it rankle that much?

  • doop
  • Comrade Stalin

    Henry, I know it’s not embarassing for SF, but it’s still amusing.

  • keano10

    Boring beyond belief. Go and hire a good DVD or something…

  • USA

    Alan you are better than this. Forget the funny hat garbage and concentrate on the real questions? For example, would a single Unionist candidate have a chance of victory? Or would a single unionist candidate again signal a crushing defeat for the SDLP as happened to Feargal McKinney in Fermanagh? Unionist unity could be the SDLP’s worst nightmare.

  • Mick Fealty

    As I pointed out on Petes well backlinked post, this story is dead with the, erm, New Year’s Honours list, if the party just treats it as the formality it is. But having your flacks mutter darkly about legal action to local journos was not a smart way to play it. I trust Martin has much more sense than the old ‘Baron’.

    Moral: wait for the general election next time lads? Or else, what’s the rush?

  • Henry94

    Comrade Stalin

    It’s amusing alright but it would take a Monty Python sketch to do justice to the shenanigans that the British get up to when a Sinn Fein MP informs the speaker of his resignation.

    In reality the British have accepted now that an MP can resign with a letter to the speaker. But if the tradition was that you had to wear a feathered headdress to resign they would pretend the MP had worn the hat and some people would be chortling how funny Adams and McGuinness looked in those hats.

    The British have handled it very well in fact. They have conceded the republican point but have the unionists/royalists laughing instead of raging. That takes political skill.

  • Henry94 – I agree that this is a non-story.

    As for “bye-election”, it’s unusual but not wrong; I find it in the Statutes and Ordinances of Cambridge University (eg here paragraph 6). UKanian enough for ou, Alan?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Henry94, no dispute there.

    I have to admit I find the silly traditions of the House of Commons charming. And the irony of a member of Sinn Féin (and admitted IRA member) being appointed by the Crown raises a smile. But people are kidding themselves if they believe republicans lose sleep over it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Might I refer people to my previous. I do think the idea this some clever trick by the Brits is genuinely amusing though.

    Its the constitutional way of doing things in London. Reform Will have to wait till after they change the Lords and depose the Monarch. Don’t hold yer breath.

  • Henry94


    The British had the option of insisting that the Sinn Fein MPs followed to procedure and applied for the positions. There was a stand-off in the Adams case as reported by the BBC

    It has led to a stand-off, with the Commons authorities waiting for Mr Adams to follow procedures and the Sinn Fein president apparently content that he has done all he is going to do.

    The decision to pretend in the end that he had followed the procedure (by deeming him to have followed it) was pragmatic. It was a trick and a clever one and it wasn’t aimed at republicans.

  • Comrade Stalin


    That isn’t at all true. A number of eccentric parliamentary procedures have already been amended.

    Nothing to stop them passing legislation permitting a simple resignation /automatic by-election procedure.