Sinn Fein MPs asked to write their own parliamentary oath
Published 09/09/2010 | 11:01
Sinn Fein MPs in the North have been invited to write their own oath of allegiance in an attempt to get them to attend the British Parliament.
The party’s MPs have traditionally failed to take up their Westminster seats and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the British monarch.
But Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said he had written to Sinn Fein asking it to write an alternative oath that would allow them to attend Parliament.
He told the House of Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee on Wednesday: “There is no reason for them to stay away.
“I have said if the oath is an obstacle, come to me with an alternative text, we already do it for people who are not Christians. So far they have not, the ball is in their court.”
The 1866 Parliamentary Oaths Act requires all MPs to pledge allegiance to the monarch before they can take their seats, receive their salaries and claim expenses.
Most MPs still take the traditional oath, sworn on the Bible.
It reads: “I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”
An alternative oath was introduced in 1978 that did not include any religious references.
It reads: “I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.”
Any new oath would have to be approved by Commons Speaker John Bercow.
A Democratic Unionist Party spokesman said: “The Queen is the head of state and it would be totally unacceptable for any MP to be let off the requirement to pledge allegiance to her. It would create two classes of MP. “
Lord Tebbit, the former Tory Party chairman whose wife Margaret was crippled by the IRA's 1984 attack on the Grand Hotel in Brighton, said the idea of a new oath for Sinn Fein's MPs was a “nonsense”.
“The formulation of an oath of loyalty which avoids pledging loyalty to the state and its head would seem a rather difficult task,” he added. “It is a nonsense.”
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office last night insisted there were 'no plans' to change the oath of allegiance.