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Brexit: Mary Lou rules out special SF conference on party taking seats in Westminster

‘There is no appetite for us to enter Westminster,’ said the Sinn Fáin party leader.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

SINN FÉIN’S MARY Lou McDonald has ruled out holding a special Ard Fheis on the issue of abstentionism and the idea of Sinn Féin proxies taking Westminster seats to “stop Brexit”.

The idea that Sinn Féin’s MPs could resign their seats, trigger by-elections, resulting in anti-Brexit MPs taking their seats in Westminster in order to prevent Brexit, was floated by The Irish Times writer Fintan O’Toole this week.

The party leader poured cold water on the idea, calling it a non-runner.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie at Cabra Community Garden, where McDonald discussed climate change, Brexit, and the next general election, she ruled out holding a special Ard Fheis to ask members if they would reconsider the issue of abstentionism in the light of Brexit. 

Republican abstentionism from elected office stretches back over 100 years. It is just over 30 years ago that Sinn Féin agreed to end its abstentionist policy from the Dáil by 429 votes to 161.

The long-standing practice of refusing to take up seats in Westminster continues to this day, with the party running candidates on the clear policy of abstentionism.

Voters are made aware that a vote for Sinn Féin in the House of Commons means they’re voting for a candidate who will not take up a seat if elected.

All MPs must take an oath to the Queen when taking their seats in Westminster, swearing true allegiance to the monarch. Sinn Féin opts not to do this.

Talk of no-deal Brexit

As Brexit comes down to the wire and with the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating Brexit will happen on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”, talk of a no-deal Brexit has been ramping up in recent weeks.

Under the unique circumstances, McDonald was asked if she would consider asking her membership at a special conference if they might reconsider the party’s policy. 

“On this, no, absolutely not,” she said. 

“We have an Ard Fheis every year and every part of the organisation is free to bring forward motions to that, any issue under the sun can be addressed under those Ard Fheiseanna.

“There is no appetite for us to enter Westminster,” she said, adding that the function of the Westminster parliament  is to advance British interests.

At previous Ard Fheiseanna party members have been asked to make key decisions such as electing a new party president, as well as deciding the party’s position in relation to the abortion legislation which came into effect after the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

“In the case of Brexit, let’s be honest, it is very specifically an English case being made, and that is okay, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and think we can sabotage that.” 

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McDonald said she did consider the argument presented by O’Toole in his recent opinion piece.  

“I did consider it, I read Fintan’s piece with great interest. I always follow what Fintan has to say because he is a very interesting and incisive commentator, but he is wrong on this point.”

Sinn Féin riding in ‘on their charger’

The bottom line is this, we can’t stop Brexit and people need to stop creating this fantasy world wherein somebody be it that Sinn Fein or otherwise rides in on their charger and stops the nightmare, that is just not where it is at.
People need to  remember that the English electorate in particular have substantially mandated Brexit. They need to understand that they are elected representatives. A big majority in Westminster support that position. The seven Sinn Féin votes are neither here nor there.

She denied that the seven MP votes would make any difference when it comes to a vote on Brexit. 

“It is not going to, the maths are established. They have decided for Brexit. Ireland, the North of Ireland, has taken a different view. Scotland has taken a different view, but this is largely an English question, and in fairness to them, they have decided their democratic future,” she said. 

“Embroiling ourselves in a game of musical chairs at Westminster and fantasy politics isn’t going to help. In fairness to Fintan, it was a great exercise in creative thinking, and it was very well-intentioned.”

The full interview with Mary Lou McDonald in her constituency at the Cabra Community Garden, where she discussed climate change, carbon tax, a United Ireland and the next general election, will be published this weekend.


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