Mary Lou McDonald defends Sinn Féin's 'abstentionism mandate' in Westminster

Mary Lou McDonald defends Sinn Féin's 'abstentionism mandate' in Westminster

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has again rejected calls for the party's Northern MPs to take their seats in Westminster, insisting this would just add to the Brexit chaos there.

One motion - aligning with the EU's custom's union to resolve the Brexit deadlock - failed by just three votes in Westminster on Monday. Now there is pressure on Sinn Féin to add its voice there.

Ms McDonald said that, as a matter of policy, Sinn Féin would not swear an allegiance to a British Queen, as is required by sitting Westminster MPs.

Furthermore, she noted that the seven Sinn Féin MPs elected in the North were there on an “abstentionism mandate”. This was a “century old” policy, said Ms McDonald, for the party that believed in a united Ireland.

Irish interests in this Brexit debacle are not best advanced at Westminster. The purpose of the Westminster parliament is to advance British interests.

Irish interests should instead be protected in Dublin, she said, also adding: "Don't imagine for a second that seven Sinn Féin MPs could enter Westminster and make sense of the utter chaos and circus that we have witnessed over the last number of months.

“I would suggest that were Sinn Féin MPs to enter Westminster, it would only heighten the political temperature. Far from producing light or a conclusive position, I would suggest it would have the practical effect of making things more confused and more chaotic.”

Health Minister Simon Harris triggered debate on the MPs taking their seats, tweeting that it was “hard to see” how Sinn Féin would not change the Brexit impasse.

Fianna Fail also argues that Sinn Féin should be in Westminster “representing all the people of the North”.

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