Sinn Fein will not review abstentionist policy as PM bids to suspend Parliament

Boris Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament will not force Sinn Fein to rethink it abstentionist policy at Westminster, the party has insisted.

The republican party again rejected calls to ditch its century-old boycott of the House of Commons to help pro-Remain parties in their efforts to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Party Assembly member Conor Murphy branded the suggestion “absurd” and a “nonsense”.

Political rivals of Sinn Fein have repeatedly questioned the party’s abstentionist stance through the Brexit process, arguing its seven MPs could play a pivotal role in such a finely balanced Parliament.

Mr Murphy faced similar questions on Wednesday as he reacted to Mr Johnson’s move.

The absurdity of that is we are here today to discuss a move by the British Prime Minister to shut down Parliament and you are saying put seven more bums on a bench at Westminster and that will have an impact?

He said: “Without getting into the argument about our mandate and the platform we were elected on, this day of all days when the British Government decided to set aside parliamentary interests, decided to ride roughshod over the Parliament and force their own position, then the argument that Sinn Fein should be sitting in there, as impotent as the rest of the MPs, I think is a nonsense.

“If they (the Government) have that regard for their own political institutions what regard have they got for Irish interests – and our clear view is they have none.

“Irish interests will not be defended at Westminster, they will be defended by the Irish Government, by the European Union, by the Americans on Capitol Hill – those are the people who are defending Ireland’s interests, it’s not being found in Westminster.”

Sinn Fein has seven MPs at Westminster – none of whom takes their seat.

At the 2017 general election, three pro-Remain SDLP MPs – Mark Durkan, Alastair McDonnell and Margaret Ritchie – all lost their seats.

In Northern Ireland, 56% of the electorate voted to Remain.

However, in Westminster 10 of the 11 MPs from the region who take their seats are Democratic Unionist Brexiteers. Independent Lady Sylvia Hermon is the only Remain voice in Parliament.

Arlene Foster
The DUP, led by Arlene Foster, has welcomed the decision to suspend Parliament (PA)

In response to one of a number of media questions on the Sinn Fein abstentionist policy, Mr Murphy said: “The absurdity of that is we are here today to discuss a move by the British Prime Minister to shut down Parliament and you are saying put seven more bums on a bench at Westminster and that will have an impact?

“The British Prime Minister has closed down his own Parliament in order to pursue his no-deal Brexit agenda, I just think the question is absurd – today of all days that question is absurd.”

Mr Murphy also heavily criticised the DUP for backing the PM’s move.

“By throwing their weight behind the British Government today, who are clearly determined to drive through a no-deal Brexit, once again they are demonstrating their own contempt for the people who elected all of us in this part of the world,” he said.

“Whatever happens in Ireland is of very little regard to them (the UK Government) and the DUP will find to their cost at some stage that they have been puppets in relation to all of this.”

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