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Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 15:54 GMT
Sinn Fein 'will sit in Commons'
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams outside the Houses of Parliament in 1996
Gerry Adams: Taking the road to Westminster according to David Trimble
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said he believes Sinn Fein's MPs will eventually take their seats in the House of Commons.

Sinn Fein's four abstentionist MPs refuse to take their seats because they will not make the Commons oath of allegiance to the Queen.

But on Monday the party will set up offices in Westminster for the first time following the lifting of the bar against them using the Commons facilities available to all other MPs.

Mr Trimble said in a BBC interview on Saturday that he believed the republican party's decision to use the facilities at the British Parliament, showed it was moving inexorably away from its stated republican ideal of a united Ireland.

David Trimble says Sinn Fein is moving away from united Ireland ideal
David Trimble says Sinn Fein is moving away from united Ireland ideal

He said: "I have no doubt that the time will come when Sinn Fein representatives, whether it is Mr Adams or Mr McGuinness, I know not, will take the oath and will take their seats in the normal way.

"I think that is perhaps the last thing they do as part of this process towards inclusion and involvement in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom," he said.

"It will be interesting to see what explanation Sinn Fein will give as to how walking into Westminster is a step towards a United Ireland when it very obviously is a step in the opposite direction."

He accused the Sinn Fein leadership of being dishonest with its own followers by seeking to disguise this shift away from republicanism.

What people are worried about is not the IRA carrying out another initiative but what is going to happen to people, especially after the murder of Dan McColgan

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly

"One of the ways it does that is to aggravate unionism," he said.

Mr Trimble, Northern Ireland's first minister, was speaking the Inside Politics programme as the Sinn Fein leadership met in County Meath to consider the government's response to the IRA's act of arms decommissioning last October.

Mr Trimble, who is due to face another meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council in March, has threatened to take action if there is not further decommissioning by the IRA.

'Failure is Sinn Fein's'

He did not disclose what sort of action he may take but called on Sinn Fein to defuse the issue by engaging with General John de Chastelain, head of the international decommissioning commission.

"Please carry out the promises you have made. You said in May 2000 that you would put your weapons beyond use in a manner to maximise public confidence.

"Get on with the job and stop belly-aching about others. The real problem is your own failure," he added.

However, speaking to the BBC from the Navan conference, Sinn Fein's north Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly said republicans were in no mood to discuss IRA disarmament, in the midst of ongoing loyalist violence, including the murder of Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan last week.

He said: "What people are worried about is not the IRA carrying out another initiative but what is going to happen to people, especially after Dan McColgan and after a number of attempted murders in the area."

But Mr Kelly said the government's decision to remove the bar on Sinn Fein MPs availing of Commons facilities showed that something good had recently come out of the political process.

On Monday, West Belfast MP Gerry Adams and Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness will be given their own offices, while West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty and Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew will temporarily share an office.

See also:

19 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
SF calls for loyalist clampdown
17 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
MPs back Sinn Fein conduct motion
11 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Tory challenge over Sinn Fein offices
14 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Sinn Fein demands Commons facilities
16 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein urged to join police board
12 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Rise of Sinn Fein
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