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These Sinn Féin MPs were at Leinster House today to demand speaking time

Separately, Gerry Adams held talks with Theresa May. The British PM also spoke by phone with Leo Varadkar.
Jun 15th 2017, 7:50 PM 23,671 245

Updated 8pm

SINN FEIN’S NEWLY elected Westminster MPs were at Leinster House today demanding that they be given speaking rights in the Dáil.

Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the provision of speaking rights on the floor of the Dáil was recommended by an Oireachtas committee as far back as 2003.

However, despite extensive discussions with the Taoiseach of the day, Bertie Ahern, MPs were only given access to the Oireachtas Committee on the Good Friday Agreement.

“Sadly, he bottled out,” Ó Caoláin claimed – contending that a “watered down opportunity” was given.

He insisted that allowing MPs access in relevant debates on the floor of the Dáil “would be a critical first step”.

Access should not be restricted to Sinn Féin, but opened up to members of the DUP and other parties elected by constituencies in the North, he said.

Ó Caoláin called on the new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, to revisit the 2003 recommendation and “open the doors of the Dail”.

Sinn Féin candidates stand in the Westminster elections but have never taken their seats in London as the party believes the parliament has no legitimate power over Northern Ireland.

The party secured seven seats in last week’s election. Representation of the SDLP in Westminster was wiped out.

There have been calls in the last few days for Sinn Féin to reverse its policy on abstentionism, in order to provide a voice for the nationalist community in the Westminster parliament.

However, leader Gerry Adams remarked at the weekend that voters were aware of his party’s stance before casting their ballots.

“Sinn Féin stand in British general elections on an abstentionist platform. This is not a new policy,” Adams said.

This position was once again resoundingly endorsed by the electorate on Thursday. The citizens of the North who voted for Sinn Féin had a choice of candidates. They supported Sinn Féin. By so doing they turned their backs on Westminster entirely.

Deal with the DUP 

In London meanwhile, Theresa May’s Conservatives appear to have reached a “broad agreement” with the DUP to prop up her minority government.

A Conservative source told AFP earlier that talks with the DUP were progressing well. The Tories and the DUP are committed to strengthening British unity, delivering Brexit, combating terrorism and delivering prosperity but “at the moment there isn’t a deal,” the source said.

A Sinn Féin delegation also attended talks at Downing Street.

Speaking to reporters, Gerry Adams said the party would not stand for any Conservative-DUP arrangement which compromised British government impartiality in the North.

“A little side bargain to keep Theresa May in power… won’t have any integrity and certainly isn’t as important as the needs of people” in Northern Ireland, said Adams.

The prime minister has totally ignored the will of those people in terms of Brexit.

Adams said he also told May she was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

It was confirmed today that Queen Elizabeth will formally open parliament and announce the British government’s legislative programme on Wednesday of next week – two days later than planned, after Prime Minister May’s election setback.

New Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke by phone to Theresa May earlier today, following his election to the office yesterday.

According to a readout of the call provided by the Government Press Office:

The Taoiseach extended the Government’s sympathies to Prime Minister May on the tragic fire in London. They reiterated the shared objectives of avoiding a hard border, maintaining the common travel area and supporting the Good Friday Agreement.
They also discussed the ongoing political discussions in London and in Belfast, agreeing on the need to have the Northern Ireland Executive up and running as quickly as possible, and they discussed Brexit.
They noted they would each be meeting with the Northern Ireland parties over coming days and agreed that the Taoiseach would meet with the Prime Minister in the very near future to continue their discussions.

Enda Kenny resignation Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Varadkar also spoke by phone to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Brexit was discussed on both calls, according to the Government’s summary.

Additional reporting AFP and Daragh Brophy

Poll: Should Sinn Féin MPs from the North be allowed to speak in the Dáil?>

Read: SDLP to meet with election office over claims votes were ‘stolen’ in constituency it lost to Sinn Féin>

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