Will Sinn Fein MP’s Take Their Seats At Westminster After The Next General Election?

Interesting piece from the New Statesman’s George Eaton today speculating that Sinn Fein may take their seats at Westminster after the next general election so as to take advantage of a possible hung parliament. In this context Martin McGuinness’ increasingly warm relationship with British Queen Elizabeth takes on added and intriguing meaning. Cue sound of rolling graves in the republican plot at Milltown cemetery.

Will Sinn Fein MPs take their seats after the next election?

Some suggest the party could change its stance in the event of another hung parliament.

Some suggest the party could change its stance in the event of another hung parliament.
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness address the media in front of the Houses of Parliament on July 2, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.

The next parliament looks increasingly likely to be even more divided than the last. After several polls putting Labour and the Tories neck-and-neck, MPs speak of the possibility of neither being able to form a majority (326 seats) – even with Liberal Democrat support. In these circumstances, the small parties from the rest of the UK would take on a new significance.

The Tories are already talking informally to the Democratic Unionist Party (the largest non-English party with eight MPs) about the possibility of a post-election pact. The SNP, which is likely to return with an enlarged parliamentary party, and Plaid Cymru will increasingly be pressed on how they would act in in another hung parliament. More than at any point since the 1970s, all parties could hope to pocket concessions from the government in return for their support on key votes.

It is this that has prompted some to ask a question that would once have seemed unthinkable: could Sinn Fein MPs take their seats after the next election? The party’s Westminster representatives (of which there are five) have long refused to sit in the Commons on the grounds that this would legitimate a constitutional settlement they oppose and require them to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. But one Conservative minister told me yesterday that sources have suggested this could change if Sinn Fein stood to wield influence in a hung parliament.

The party has already moderated its stance by allowing MPs to sit alongside peers for a speech by Irish president Michael Higgins and has also banned members from serving in both the Northern Ireland Assembly and at Westminster. The 2012 handshake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness was another landmark moment.

In response to the suggestion that Sinn Fein MPs could take their seats after the next election, a party spokesman told me: “Sinn Fein is an abstentionist party and there are no plans to change that.” But consider how many other times the party has changed its approach and the possibility no longer seems as implausible as it once did.

5 responses to “Will Sinn Fein MP’s Take Their Seats At Westminster After The Next General Election?

  1. The British (left leaning)media fascination with SF continues – or perhaps it was just another slow day at the office. Either way, this one looks well off the mark – which rather reinforces the point made elsewhere by yours truly – that no matter how hard they try (and by golly Messrs Roy Greenslade and Peter Taylor, for example, try ever so hard ) they just don’t ‘get’ us*

    *Irishers North and South

    • i can remember people like you saying the same about decommissioning. it would never happen. people who say that just don’t get us. and so on. by the way the people at the new statesman will be interested to read your description ‘left-leaning’ attached to their journal. this is 2014 not 1974…..

  2. According to my friend wiki “The magazine has, according to its present self-description, a left-of-centre political position” But whatever….

    I’m not sure I have ever expressed an opinion on decommissioning other than to say it was excellent bargaining tool – pretty good to be able to still trade on that after you had declared a ceasefire. Like trading the same thing twice really whilst causing an implosion in Unionism.(Trimble could have been a great Unionist leader)

    But really, left and right don’t really come into it – the British media, irrespective of ideological position(in so far as that exists these days) don’t really get us. On a positive note, they do get a good grounding as ‘foreign correspondents when and if they come here – which stands then in good stead fro later assignments.

    …and bless their hearts are generally in the right place.

    • bargaining tool? to elevate the dup into govt and unite a divided unionism behind paisley? re new statesman, it all depends on what you regard as ‘left-leaning’? and i think what you should take note of in that piece is that it was inspired not by some british journalist who ‘doesn’t get you’ (and by the way they do, often much better than their irish counterparts) but by a conversation with a british cabinet minister. that raises the possibility that cameron’s people are hearing it from sinn fein, either directly and from their intelligence agencies.

  3. Ok me old mucker (I feel a strong bond coming on between us) lets have a little wager – a tenner (one with the queens head on it) to the charity of choice on the matter – payable after the Westminsters? This is just a bit of dust kicked up by those gazing quizzically across the Irish sea and trying to fill a bit of space in a fairly obscure peridoical.(Don’t have the sales figures to hand admittedly). We all have to get through the working day somehow.

    On Decomissioning – it was always going to happen as was the transfer of Police Powers to Green Field number 4 – clearly that was part of the GFA deal (between the insurgents and the Englezes). Destroying the Unionist middle ground, which deomcomissioning foot dragging, helped achieve, was obviously a bonus to the insurgent ‘peace’ objectives – although they could never admit that. Having the crazy-religious-men of the DUP(who make UKIP look more left wing than the boy Roy G) is clearly not strategically good for Unionism.

    Why unionism attached so much importance to decommissioning is a bit of mystery – except that they hoped it would be impossible for the insurgents to deliver – and was about as useful as repealing those funny southern constitutional articles(2 & 3).

    ps The world is awash with weaponry – and if you were to take a completely cynical view of it – getting rid of old stock is a good military practice.

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