#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 0°C Sunday 11 April 2021

I’m not the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, says Adams

David Cameron’s private secretary apologises to the Sinn Féin president after the PM says Adams has taken a job under the Crown.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

DAVID CAMERON’S private secretary has apologised after the Prime Minister today incorrectly told the House of Commons that Gerry Adams had been appointed Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today, Cameron said that Adams had taken the job – a job under the Crown – so as to vacate his seat as an MP for West Belfast, given that there was no formal way for an MP to resign their office.

British law does not provide for any way for an MP to quit their positions – so instead, a historical ‘legal fiction’ dictates that resigning MPs apply to the position of Crown Steward, at either the Manor of Northstead or the Manor of the Chiltern Hundreds.

In doing so, they become paid employees of the Crown – meaning they forfeit their entitlement to be a member of parliament.

Adams – who had stated his desire to stand down as an MP so as to underline his intentions of becoming a full-time TD for Louth after the next general election in the Republic of Ireland – was therefore required to seek the position under the Crown so as to formally lose his position.

Adams, however, denied having accepted the position – despite the insistence of Her Majesty’s Treasury, which administers the ceremonial positions, that he had been appointed to such a job.

In a statement this evening, Adams said Cameron’s comments – that he had accepted the position under the Crown – were “simply untrue”.

“I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office,” Adams asserted “I am an Irish republican. I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system.”

Adams had spoken to Cameron’s private secretary, he added, who had apologised for the mix-up.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson yesterday told TheJournal.ie that the party did not adhere to the “traditional” British rules – and that the party considered him to already have resigned, simply by virtue of his having sent a letter to the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, declaring his resignation.

That letter simply read:

A chara, I hereby resign as MP for the constituency of west Belfast. Go raibh maith agat. Gerry Adams

The twin positions of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manors of Northstead and Chiltern Hundreds have been used as a procedural device to allow MPs quit Westminster since the 1840s.

The two positions are used in alternate; the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds is currently held by the DUP’s Iris Robinson, who resigned as an MP in January 2010.

The Manor of Northstead itself is a former collection of fields near Scarborough in North Yorkshire.

Though he insists that his resignation has taken effect, the House of Commons considers Adams to retain the title of MP for West Belfast – for now, at least. British law does not provide for a maximum period of time within which a by-election would be held.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

Read next: