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Last Updated: Monday, 14 April, 2003, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
SDLP MPs criticised in Commons
A Labour Party MP has criticised the SDLP for not turning up in Westminster to hear the Northern Ireland secretary's statement on the peace process.

Andrew Mackinlay said he was sick to his back teeth of going to debates on Northern Ireland to discover that the SDLP had not turned up.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, he said other MPs were acting as proxies for the SDLP and it had to stop.

The Thurrock MP, a regular watcher of Northern Irish affairs, said it was wrong the nationalist community was not being properly represented at Westminster, even though the SDLP MPs sit on the labour benches.

He said Labour should organise in Northern Ireland to ensure the election of proper Labour MPs.

In response, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy refused to be drawn on the issue of party membership in Northern Ireland but said he would raise the SDLP's non attendance with the party.

Later, a spokeswoman for the SDLP said Monday's debate was organised at short notice and its parliamentary team was unable to travel to London.

However, she stressed that her party was heavily involved in talks with British and Irish officials throughout Monday, in efforts to break the deadlock on the Northern Ireland peace process.

The party's three MPs are Eddie McGrady, Seamus Mallon and John Hume.

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