Sinn Féin rule out taking Westminster seats

Sinn Féin have dismissed speculation they would take their seats in Westminster to help Labour block Theresa May’s Queen’s Speech.

The party visited London to hold meetings with ministers and to set up their parliamentary office but the party maintained its traditional refusal to take its seats out of opposition to Westminster’s jurisdiction in Northern Ireland and the oath all MPs must make to the Queen.

Paul Maskey, Belfast West MP, told a media briefing in Westminster: "Almost 250,000 people voted for us, for the seven of us and others who were unsuccessful, they gave us that mandate not to take our seats.

Sinn Fein’s newly-elected MPs Barry McElduff, Chris Hazzard, Elisha McCallion, Paul Maskey, Pearse Doharty TD, Michelle Gildernew, Mickey Brady and Francie Molloy during a press conference in Westminster, central London.

"People knew that we were abstentionist MPs, they have elected us to represent them but not to take our seats."

He said other nationalists had lost their seats, adding: "They (voters) have turned their back on Westminster because they know it doesn’t work for them."

It comes as the party has accused the DUP of betraying the interests of Northern Ireland by agreeing to prop up a Conservative minority government.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said that restoring powersharing at Stormont will provide a strategic route to a united Ireland.

Mr Adams dismissed suggestions the republican party was no longer interested in getting a devolved administration back up and running in Belfast.

Mr Adams, addressing claims of Sinn Féin disengagement, said: "We want into the institutions, because that is what the people desire, that is what the people voted for.

"But also because we think strategically that is the way to a united Ireland.

"The way forward is not to be in a vacuum, to have stagnation, the way forward is to have that forum working on the basis on which it should have been established."

As he arrived at the Dáil in Dublin ahead of Enda Kenny’s formal resignation as Taoiseach, Mr Adams said incoming Irish premier Leo Varadkar needed to put his efforts into restoring powersharing north of the border.

"The focus has to be on plan A, which is to get the institutions in place, that is our focus and we would like to think it will be the focus of the incoming Taoiseach," he said.

The Alliance Party has warned that the Stormont talks process is bereft of "impetus and momentum".

Exchanges at Stormont Castle on Tuesday were limited to bilateral meetings between local parties and discussions among officials.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire and DUP leader Arlene Foster were both in London for talks on the confidence and supply deal that would enable Theresa May’s minority government to function.

The Stormont parties have until a June 29 deadline to reach consensus and re-establish a ruling executive.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the first roundtable talks in the process were not expected until Thursday at the earliest.

"I understand there is a new UK government and changes in the government in the Republic but there remains no impetus to this process, which doesn’t inspire confidence," he said.

"We need people to step up to the plate and do so without delay.

"The consequences of not doing so are too severe."

Northern Ireland has been without a powersharing executive since March and without a first and deputy first minister since January.

Developments at Westminster have placed another question mark over the already faltering process.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance insist Mr Brokenshire cannot chair the efforts to restore powersharing.

They are adamant the UK government can no longer cast itself as a neutral facilitator in the process, given the Prime Minister’s likely deal with the DUP.

The dispute has prompted renewed calls for a chairman from outside the UK and Ireland to be appointed.

Mr Adams said he had never had any faith in the impartiality of the UK government.

"I never said the British government are not honest brokers because they are putting together a deal with the DUP," he said.

"The English government have never been honest brokers - ever. They have never been referees, never been objective, never been neutral.

"They are obliged to be so in the wording of the Good Friday and other agreements but unless an Irish government is keeping them to that responsibility, they will behave as they have behaved for as long as I have lived and longer than that."

Mr Brokenshire has rejected the criticism, claiming Westminster affairs were "entirely separate" from the Government’s responsibility to act with impartiality at Stormont.

A number of deadlines to reach an agreement have already fallen by the wayside since March’s snap Assembly poll, which was triggered by the implosion of the last DUP/Sinn Fein-led administration over a dispute about a botched green energy scheme.

The Assembly election campaign exposed many divisions between the two main parties on issues such as legislative protections for Irish language speakers and how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

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