Sinn Féin refuses to send its four MPs to Westminster in attempt to block Article 50
A senior Sinn Féin TD has said his party would refuse to take its seats in Westminster to vote against British Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to leave the European Union.
Pearse Doherty said there was "no appetite" in the party to end its policy of abstentionism, despite the UK Supreme Court ruling that triggering Article 50 - the mechanism for leaving the EU - requiring the approval of Parliament.
He insisted the votes of the party's four MPs, Francie Molloy, Mickey Brady, Pat Doherty and Paul Maskey wouldn't change the result of a House of Commons Brexit vote.
"It's a long-established policy. We are an abstentionist party," he said. Only a Sinn Féin ard fheis could change that, he said, adding: "There would be no appetite whatsoever to do that . . . the reality is four votes isn't going to make a difference."
The party has come under pressure from across the political spectrum to reconsider its policy due to the impending vote on Article 50.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party would be the only one in Westminster "standing by the will of the majority of people in Northern Ireland", who voted to remain in the EU.
He said Sinn Féin "cannot shirk their responsibility to the people of Ireland and should therefore take their seats".
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said Brexit's economic impact on Ireland meant "it behoves everybody to use whatever influence they have at whatever level".
"That may mean doing things that were unthinkable in the past to ensure that the best interests of the Irish people are fully heard and fully vindicated," he said.
Fine Gael's Colm Burke said Mrs May's government had a narrow majority and "four votes could be crucial at various stages of the Brexit process".
Asked if Sinn Féin was shirking its responsibility, Mr Doherty said: "The nationalist community knows who represents their interests best." He said voters knew Sinn Féin's MPs would abstain when they cast their ballots.