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Thursday, December 4, 1997 Published at 11:53 GMT

UK: Politics

Sinn Fein MPs demand parliamentary facilities
image: [ The Sinn Fein MPs are currently denied access to Commons facilities ]
The Sinn Fein MPs are currently denied access to Commons facilities

The Sinn Fein MPs, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, have arrived at the House of Commons for a meeting with the Speaker in a bid to lift the ban on their use of parliamentary facilities.

The pair have threatened to take the case to the European Court of Justice if their appeal is rejected by Betty Boothroyd.

The two MPs were denied access to the Palace of Westminster by Mrs Boothroyd shortly after the General Election in May because they refused to sign the oath of allegiance to the crown.

Although Gerry Adams was elected the Member of Parliament for West Belfast from 1983 to 1992, he has never taken his seat, having refused to swear allegiance to the Queen.

He won back the seat at the 1997 General Election. Martin McGuinness, who won in Ulster in 1997, has also never taken his seat.

[ image: Betty Boothroyd is to meet Sinn Fein MPs]
Betty Boothroyd is to meet Sinn Fein MPs
Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness say circumstances have changed since May.

They point out the decision was made before the latest IRA ceasefire and say the Speaker should overturn the decision because of Sinn Fein's involvement in the peace talks.

Mr McGuinness said: "We believe that the decision to impose restrictions which effectively discriminate against Sinn Fein, and to people who elected us in Ulster and in West Belfast, is most unfair and unjust."

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, has invited Mr Adams to Downing Street for an historic meeting next week, but this is unlikely to affect the question of access to Parliament.

According to Margaret Moran, Labour MP for Luton South, and a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Northern Ireland: "That's quite separate from them wanting to use the powers and the resources of the House of Commons. If they want to use [the House]. . . as a vehicle then they have to abide by its rules."

Some Conservative MPs say the Downing Street meeting is premature and the Palace of Westminster must not be opened to Sinn Fein.

Andrew Mackay, Shadow Northern Ireland spokesman, said: "The meeting that is taking place with the Speaker, and the meeting that is taking place in 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister are purely propaganda exercises for Sinn Fein and the IRA, and we must recognise them and treat them as such."

Last May, the Speaker of the House said that elected members who chose not to take their seats and fulfil their democratic responsibilities should not have access to the benefits and facilities of the House.

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