Sinn Fein Spurns Queen, Demands Commons Resources
Sinn Fein, the IRA's political ally, vowed on Thursday that its politicians will not swear loyalty to the British monarch or sit in parliament if Northern Ireland voters elect them in Britain's June 7 general election.
But, stepping up pressure on the British government, it declared it wants to use office facilities at the House of Commons that have been closed to its two parliamentarians.
Sinn Fein -- in the shadow of the Irish Republican Army while war raged but now pivotal to Northern Ireland's peace process -- has a long-standing policy of refusing to give allegiance to the sovereign, which parliamentarians must do to be allowed sit in the chamber of the Westminster parliament.
Gerry Adams, campaigning for re-election as an "abstentionist" MP, reaffirmed the dogma at a news conference but, in comments likely to ignite fury from the province's pro-British unionist parties, said Sinn Fein was aiming, for the first time, to use the parliament's resources.
"Our elected MPs will...make use of facilities at Westminster. We will not take an oath to the English Queen but we are pressing the British government to reverse a decision taken after the last election to deny Sinn Fein access to facilities and resources," Adams said.
Sinn Fein won two of Northern Ireland's 18 seats in the last British general election in 1997, a year when the IRA halted 30 years of anti-British hostilities and peace talks gathered momentum culminating in the landmark 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Many British parliamentarians balked at the prospect of Sinn Fein MPs being allowed to use office facilities.
Adams said that in the runup to the 1997 election Sinn Fein had made clear it wanted to use parliament's office and resource facilities which he said had been open for many years to Members who did not want to take the oath or go into the chamber.
"When Martin McGuinness and I were returned as the MPs...the Speaker of the House (Betty Boothroyd) changed those rules. At one sweep of the pen she overturned hundreds of years of British parliamentary practice and rules. We have been lobbying the British government since, to change that."
Asked if he detected any willingness by the new Speaker, Michael Martin or the British government to allow Sinn Fein use the facilities, Adams replied: "I haven't spoken to the new Speaker about it. I have spoken to the British Prime Minister (Tony Blair) about it and I don't want to say anything more than that at this time." -- BELFAST (Reuters)
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