by Democrat reporter
ELECTED SINN Féin representatives Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Michelle Gildernew and Pat Doherty moved into their Westminster offices on 21 January, following a decision by MPs in December to lift the ban on the party's MPs gaining access to facilities at Westminster because of their refusal to take up their seats.
The Sinn Féin MPs have made it clear that they intend to use the Westminster facilities and allowances totalling £444,000 "to lobby for support for a democratic British policy in respect of Irish national self-determination and unification".
Responding to suggestions by UUP leader David Trimble that the move signalled the beginning of the end of Sinn Féin's policy of refusing to sit in the Westminster parliament, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said:
"There are a lot of things which there can be no certainty of and there are some things of which we can be certain. There will never, ever, be Sinn Fein MPs sitting in the British Houses of Parliament."
This would remain the case even if changes were made to the parliamentary oath, he insisted. Newly-elected MPs currently have to swear their allegiance to the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, before being allowed to take their seats in Commons.
"Our position is that the British parliament has no rights in Ireland," explained Adams.
At a meeting with British premier Tony Blair earlier in the day, the Sinn Fein MPs stressed the need for the British state to act decisively to end the loyalist terror campaign. The issue of security-force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries was also raised by the delegation.
"There is a common root here: the issue of the relationship between the so-called security agencies of the British state and those in loyalism who are doing the killings," said Adams.
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