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Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 14:41 GMT
Should Sinn Fein be allowed into Westminster?

Since being elected as MPs in 1997, Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have been barred from using House of Commons facilities because they refused to swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen.

The government thinks they have now proved their political credentials - although it is still not proposing to allow them into the chamber.

But the Tories and unionists say Labour is abusing the rules of parliament. Some say the move could endanger the security of MPS.

What do you think? Is the ban short-sighted and old-fashioned? Would access to Westminster would help bind Sinn Fein to the democratic process, and prevent a return to violence?

Or is it wrong that parliament should have one rule for two Sinn Fein MPs, and another for everybody else?


Sinn Fein should have to abide by the British rules for sitting in the British Commons - I do intellectualise that Northern Ireland should be granted Political Autonomy, like in Scotland.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK in US

Our Nations' Democratic Policies must be upheld. Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams must be allowed to take their seats in Commons as it is their given right to do so as elected representatives of their constituency. An Oath of Allegiance to the Queen would defeat the object for which they stand. However they should not be allowed to enter until our Government is satisfied that they do not participate in and promote an armed Militia, and the de-commissioning process has started.
Wayne Brannan, England

The point about allegiance to the Queen is misleading and unhelpful. Sinn Fein/IRA should certainly not be allowed offices in Parliament. These people have refused to swear an oath to abide by the laws of my country. They should have no seat, and no help from the government machinery that they are supposed to detest.
Jon Mainwaring, UK

I always thought that had the finest democratic practices and yet it debars elected representatives on an archaic condition of swearing allegiance to the monarchy.
V. Ganapathi, India

It is immensely enlightening to see the response to this question. As you would expect, a large proportion of commentators from Ireland argue that they should be allowed in despite not swearing allegiance to the Crown. Equally, as expected most people from England suggest the opposite. The commentators from Scotland and Wales tend to be a mix. What I really Find quite astounding is the depth of feeling shown by those with little or no knowledge of the situation other than distorted propaganda that is spoon fed to them.
David Clark, British living in the US

The oath continues today to prevent the representation of some One Hundred Forty Thousand Sinn Fein voters and rate payers in British occupied north-east Ireland at Westminster. The oath should be abolished but far more importantly, England must withdraw in total from Ireland.
Tom, USA

Yes, absolutely. Making parliamentary office facilities available to Sinn Fein is merely one small step to facilitate greater mutual understanding. Elected Sinn Fein MPs should be just as able to conveniently meet with London officials as any other elected MPs. Sustaining unnecessary barriers to communication does not encourage peace and justice.
Nick Kelly, USA

It's interesting to hear all the Monday morning quarterbacks who criticise Sinn Fein for their atrocities. No mention of the Ulster Para-military groups and their atrocities. The discrimination that has existed against the Catholic minority for years is atrocious. Of course Mr. Adams and Mr. McGuinness should be allowed to sit in parliament. They were duly elected by a democratic process. To have to swear allegiance to an outdated Monarchy is ludicrous.
John, Canada

Sinn Fein should be allowed to use House of Commons offices as they were elected to carry out the representation of their electorate, whilst the best method is being present in the chamber it can also be done by correspondence between the two offices.
Mark Dear, England

If the Sinn Fein elected members refuse to swear the oath of allegiance they should be kept barred from the parliament. Nobody is forcing them to be members of British parliament that has its rules.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Of course they should - they were elected to Westminster by the legitimate votes of their constituents, and we should respect their wishes, repugnant though they may be to us. The principle of swearing allegiance to the Queen is absurd - what would happen if someone were to be elected on a republican ticket?
Simon Bayliss, England

These comments about "democracy" in the UK are themselves a sad commentary on the state of public awareness of the situation. The so-called "democratic" forces have also engaged in "terrorist" activities in this war, which hopefully will soon be over. Readers should inform themselves, for example about the well-known collusion of the British Army and the RUC in atrocities, including murder and bombings, in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Susan O'Donnell, Ireland

For all of us who have watched the troubles in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years the events of the past 12 months have been not only momentous but have given us all the hope that a lasting peace and future prosperity can come to Ireland as a whole. Anyone who stands as a representative of the people with a view to obtaining a seat in the Commons must surely realise that such a duty entails an oath to the head of the nation. It is not out dated. Every country swears some sort of oath. In the UK it is to the current head of state. Why should it change? In the last 12 months there has been a lot of give, give, give, now at the gates of the mother of democracy a stand must be taken.
John F, Australia

On a simple level we must recognise our abilities to both reject violent pursuits and invite democratic pathways instead. It is completely inappropriate to block Sinn Fein from admission to our governmental/democratic institution. Great faith and awareness of risk has been recognised on both sides. Those of us who sit comfortable and on occasion feel like venting our anger by passing remarks on a simple constitutional level and not on a problem solving level, really ought to open our eyes to the tremendous progress built on well planned safeguards. We can only go forward now and everyone who has taken an active part sees this - whether they like it or not.
Daniel McFadden, Scotland

To allow Sinn Fein to sit in parliament without having to swear an oath of allegiance would be a gesture of goodwill from a government which has bent over backwards to accommodate to the Unionist side but has not shown the same courtesy to the Republicans. Both sides committed horrific crimes during the 30 years of the troubles and allowing Sinn Fein to properly represent their constituency would be another step in the healing process.
Grainne Phillips, Ireland

I can see the logic in not allowing Sinn Fein members not to take their seats until substantial de-commissioning has occurred, but not allowing them to take their seats until they swear allegiance to the Queen is akin to saying that a politician cannot be elected if they hold particular views. We cannot afford to loose the morale high ground by abandoning our democratic principles no matter how distasteful these men are.
Phill Jones, England

Well the general level of comment on this subject is true to form, ignorant and stupid for the most part. How does the PIRA and Sinn Fein reconcile the murder and torture of men, women and children with the fact that Britain, Northern Ireland and Eire are all part of the European Union. All law in this region is the same, are they going to take on Europe once the NI issue is resolved. Perhaps that's why they're keeping their guns!
Anon, Switzerland

Sinn Fein was allowed into Parliament as part of the Good Friday Agreements of 1998. At this point, it would be more politically advantageous for Sinn Fein to enter Parliament, even if it means swearing allegiance to the Queen.
Jeff, USA

The Irish have always been second class citizens in the eyes of Britain. Now you encourage Sinn Fein to join the democratic process and when they do they are not allowed to take their seats over some archaic oath effectively leaving the people who put their faith in the democratic process without a voice. It seems Britain is doomed to the same mistakes it has committed throughout its history of oppression in every country it has occupied.
Paul, USA

Surely there is no possible excuse for allowing people into Westminster. If they refuse to accept the oath of allegiance to the queen because they do not recognise the sovereignty of the UK in N Ireland why have they run for parliament. It is a purely PR action to try and get the attention of the people in order the further their own ends
Lee Meyrick, UK

Sinn Fein should, without doubt or protest, be allowed to use the facilities to which they are entitled as democratically elected representatives of 16% of the people of Northern Ireland. There can be no ban placed on any party with such a mandate. If the acceptance of Sinn Fein into Westminster helps fuel the political situation here, then there should be no reason for delay.
Kenneth Keniff, Northern Ireland

In time of peace and hope in Northern Ireland, we should forgive and what happened in the past and enjoy the fruits of democracy.
J Carter, England

Sinn Fein is in a strange position, they want to represent their electorate in the parliament of a country they do not wish to be part of. This does not make them traitors, they are entitled to represent their electorate but they must use solely democratic means to do so. I believe they should be allowed to use House of Commons facilities if they decommission their weapons.
David, Ireland

Under no circumstances, must we allow this to happen. When elected to stand as MP's, they knew the rules. Why does are government continue to grovel all the time, let alone give them £100,000 into the bargain.
Michael Clarke, UK

In this United Kingdom our representatives are required to swear an oath of allegiance before taking their seat in Parliament. They have no place in our Parliament until they abide by its rules.
John Brownlee, England

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness should be immediately allowed into the House of Commons without swearing to any outmoded and purely idiotic oath of allegiance to the Queen. Their oath of allegiance should be to democracy for both Britain and a free Ireland. If such is the case, then Britain and it's House of Commons can truly claim to have joined the growing list of democracies and democratic institutions.
G Kallas, USA

Yes, they should be allowed to use the facilities and hopefully they will see sense and take up their seats and represent the people who voted for them
Ray McManus, UK

All you hypocrites who claim Sinn Fein are murderers should remember that the English bullet has been in Ireland for over 800 years. And yes they should be allowed into Westminster. Whether or not they swear an allegiance shouldn't matter. According to British Law, these people are elected MP's by British Citizens. Why should the ordinary person's voice not be heard because of a stupid rule like an oath?
Peter McCluskey, Scotland

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were elected as MPs in 1997. They must be allowed into Westminster. If anyone say 'No' that is not democracy and Northern Ireland is not under UK rule. Absolutely the ban is short-sighted and old-fashioned.
Sivaruban, UK

Quite a few of your readers seem to be missing the fundamental point that Sinn Fein have been opposed to the occupation of Northern Ireland by Her Majesty's forces for over 26 years now. Surely it is obvious that they are not going to swear allegiance to the Her Majesty when that would defeat the whole purpose of their cause. Have your readers considered the possibility that Sinn Fein would rather have nothing to do with the British establishment at all? Not everyone wants to be British you know. Anyway, I hope that peace is the final outcome.
Victoria Wilson, England

Let them sit in Westminster or the British should get out of N. Ireland. All the comments on this page from subjects in the UK are hypocritical - the British suppressed the Irish people hundreds of years ago, and you continue to do so today by trying to force these two MPs to swear allegiance to the Queen - the very figurehead that symbolises British tyranny over the Irish people.
Kathy, USA

Mr Adams & Mr McGuinness should be allowed into Parliament because they are elected representatives. It doesn't mean they can convert the whole Parliament into Republicans. There is a time for everything. Their weapons can be entrusted to a third party who is neutral. How could they trust their oppressors before?
Emmy, Australia

Sinn Fein should be represented in Parliament. They have done no more harm to Britain than the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat Parties which support continued membership of the European Union. How can Sinn Fein be any worse than these parties?
John Singleton, New Zealand

Until the aspect of decommissioning is finalised and is put in the process, they should not be allowed into Westminster. Sinn Fein have shown that they are in agreement to a peaceful solution, however 'transparency' is required in the form of handing over weapons.
Sanjay Rijwani, UK

Sinn Fein must be the only political party in the western democracies which is allowed to participate in democratic processes while maintaining and promoting an independent armed militia. Just how much more compromise do they need ?
G Anderson, Australia

I think they should be allowed to enter Westminster. Let's face it, Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams are not speaking in the interests of England or the Queen, they represent the interests of the Republicans in Ulster, those who want to be free of British Rule. They were elected on a platform that excludes them from swearing this oath. If they did so, they would be hypocrites, no to mention betraying their constituents. These are legitimately elected representatives in Parliament, and they should not be punished for acting in accordance with their principles.
Erin, USA

Sinn Fein MP's should stand for seats in the UK but never take the oath. It is the year 2000 and the UK still demands allegiance to a Queen. It's time for a republic in the UK not only a united Ireland
Sean Noonan, USA

Given that Ireland was a free and independent country till they were conquered and brutally ruled by the British for centuries is it any wonder that they take issue with swearing an oath to the Queen? And all this talk of 'traitors' and 'murderers' conveniently denies history. The number of Irish dead dwarfs any English claims. It's about time the UK dropped their imperialist pretensions and got on with the business of reconciliation. And while they're at it they can stop pretending they're the injured party too. That borders on farce.
Krow, USA

I am trying very, very hard, to imagine the US Congress seating a member who refused to swear an oath of allegiance. It's impossible to imagine, for the simple reason that such a member would be openly proclaiming his intention of continuing to subvert democracy and the nation even after his current demands have been met.
Jon Livesey, USA

Once a candidate has achieved a legitimate electoral victory, they are entitled to represent their electorate in government. Sinn Fein are presently representing their electorate in the Northern Ireland Assembly and should have no interest in travelling to England to represent their people.
Patricia Deegan, Australia

The government of Eire have removed the constitutional claim to Northern Ireland from their constitution as gesture of goodwill: perhaps in the interests of tolerance Sinn Fein and their IRA cohorts could now acknowledge that the war is over, and as well as giving up their weapons, acknowledging that if they wish to partake in democratic government in the North, then they have to also accept the constitutions of the governments in which they wish to sit - part of which includes the Oath of Allegiance?
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK

Sinn Fein is attempting to work on a peace solution - don't close them out.
Bernie O'Connell, England
Sinn Fein is attempting to work on a peace solution - don't close them out. It's taken a long time getting to this point. Open your eyes and be a good listener.
Bernie O'Connell, England

Definitely not, remember these people have murdered or at the very least organised murder, the fact that they want our democracy but can't even go through a simple formality of swearing in on the grounds of their anti-British views proves what their real intentions are. They should be as unwelcome in Westminster as a child molester is in a playground.
Marc , England

Not until full weapons decommissioning has taken place. Then they can be seen as legitimate politicians instead of terrorists.
Alan, UK

They shouldn't even be permitted to enter England much less Westminster.
Terence Martin, USA

Issues of politics and violence aside, I am inclined to think that swearing allegiance to the Queen is out-dated - fewer and fewer people are monarchists.

I don't like it and I abhor what they stand for, but we do live in a democracy.
Marc Jones, Wales
UK I think that should be allowed to go to Westminster. The main reason is this will remove their complaints that they are being forbidden from doing so by the British Government, and will give them less ammunition. The other reason is that they are legally elected MPs, and they do have a right to be there. I don't like it and I abhor what they stand for, but we do live in a democracy.
Marc Jones, Wales

Yes, we've got to move forward.
Darren, UK

This issue is more fundamental than simply whether Sinn Fein MPs should be allowed to use House of Commons facilities. To allow an exception to the rule for these two MPs challenges the basis of our whole constitution, which is that the Queen in Parliament reigns supreme. In effect, the government is allowing traitors to play a full role in our constitution and MPs of ALL parties should vote against it.
Richard Marriott, England

It is very simple for Sinn Fein to take their seats in Parliament. No rule changes are required. They simply take the oath to the Queen. As they have chosen not to do this then they should remain barred from Parliament. It is their choice not to take their seats, the reason is immaterial. Why this government seems determined to sacrifice every tradition that has led to stability in the UK in order to placate apologists for some of the most barbaric people on the planet is beyond me. Why do law-abiding people like me have to pay taxes to fund these people?
Matthew Knowles, UK

I think that this move highlights what has been known for some time. This and the comments about the IRA being allowed to secure their arms in a bunker rather than destroy them shows Tony Blair's government has surrendered to them after so many lives have been lost. This is a very sad day.
Ron Kane, UK

Not until the IRA begins decommissioning its weapons. It still hasn't handed over a single bullet or ounce of explosive. How can you say that a party backed up by a paramilitary wing equipped to murder its political opponents is seriously committed to democracy?
Henry Case, UK

Certainly not! If Sinn Fein cannot swear allegiance to this country's Head of State then, as members of the UK Parliament, just who or what are they going to swear allegiance to? The gun or some other foreign power? That would be treason. And it would be treasonable if the Blair government allowed it.
Bryan, UK

The British Government has to take proactive steps to convince Sinn Fein that it can be trusted and that the Catholic Irish will no longer be treated as the underclass. Special dispensation should be given to this group even if the short-term results are not easy to bare i.e. the Ulster Unionists' protesting. Although I disagree with violence, to a certain degree the IRA was born out of British oppression and this factor and its effects can not be forgotten.
Brian Leitch, England

Surely the rules of being in Westminster are clear. You are working for the Queen's government and as a result you have to swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen. They have been elected by the public and therefore they can be there, but only once they have done the proper things. SNP et al don't have a problem with this ruling.
Anton McCoy, UK

He was democratically elected on a platform which explicitly excludes making the oath of allegiance. Given this pre-requisite, let him make an oath to support democratic resolution of the issue.
Michael Grazebrook, UK

Not at this time. If the IRA decommissions then the decision should be reconsidered.
Dave, Bournemouth, UK

I still fail to understand how the government can ban two representatives legitimately elected by the UK population while, at the same time, lauding their position and courage in participating in the Northern Assembly.
Feargal Duffy, France

Once a candidate has achieved a legitimate electoral victory, democracy decrees that they are entitled to represent their electorate in parliament. The people who elected Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are Republicans, whose core political principals include having no allegiance to any Monarch, therefore no Sinn Féin MP could faithfully represent their electorate if they swore an allegiance to the Queen. The requirement for a newly elected candidate to jettison their core principals before they are allowed to take their seat is an affront to the democratic process and ultimately disenfranchises the voters of their constituency. An oath to faithfully serve their electorate would be much more appropriate..
K Sloane, Ireland

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See also:
13 Jan 00 |  Northern Ireland
Move to allow MPs Commons facilities
04 Dec 97 |  Politics
Sinn Fein MPs to demand Parliamentary facilities

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