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Martin McGuinness appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead

An ancient British law requires resigning MPs to apply for a paid office of the British Crown in order to officially resign as James Martin Pacelli McGuinness, to give him his full name, said he would be doing earlier this week.

Martin McGuinness (File photo)
Martin McGuinness (File photo)
Image: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

SINN FÉIN’S MARTIN McGuinness has today been appointed the Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead by the British Chancellor following his resignation as a Westminster MP.

An ancient British law requires MPs who wish to resign their seat during the lifetime of a parliament to apply for paid offices of the British Crown.

McGuinness, the North’s deputy first minister, announced his resignation from his mid-Ulster seat earlier this week as part of his party’s plans to phase out double-jobbing where some members hold seats in the House of Commons and the Northern Assembly.

The law, which dates back to 1624, bans MPs from resigning their seat with death, disqualification and expulsion being the only means by which an MP’s seat may be vacated during the lifetime of a parliament.

Therefore any MP who wishes to resign their seat, as McGuinness indicated he was doing earlier this week, must go through the process of applying for a paid office of the British crown which then automatically disqualifies them from holding a seat in the House of Commons.

A brief statement on the website of the British Treasury today says: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer has this day appointed James Martin Pacelli McGuinness to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.”

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Before he ran for a seat in the Dáil in 2011 Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams resigned his Westminster seat and automatically became the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

At the time he denied having been consulted or having accepted an office describing this aspect of the British parliamentary system as “antiquated and quite bizarre”.

Read: Martin McGuinness resigns as MP

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Hugh O'Connell

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