Sunday 18 August 2019

SF distances itself from Corbyn's bid to be caretaker PM

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson gestures as she delivers a keynote speech on Brexit in London yesterday. Photo: Getty
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson gestures as she delivers a keynote speech on Brexit in London yesterday. Photo: Getty
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Labour leader Brendan Howlin backed his UK counterpart's seemingly doomed effort to become prime minister yesterday - as Sinn Féin surprisingly distanced itself from Jeremy Corbyn's plan.

Mr Corbyn is looking to table a no-confidence motion in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government and, if successful, wants to be installed as a caretaker premier where he plans to seek a Brexit extension from the EU, call a general election and campaign for a second referendum.

However, the UK Labour leader's plan appeared to collapse yesterday after the leader of the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, said Mr Corbyn would not command sufficient support.

Sky News reported that while a group of senior Tory MPs planned to meet Mr Corbyn about his intentions, they were privately indicating they would not support him forming a government.

Mr Howlin backed the plan, however, describing it as "reasonable" and welcoming the positive response of other UK opposition parties including the Green Party's single MP and the Scottish National Party.

"This is the space we need to be moving into given the constitutional difficulties that face no deal opponents in the UK," Mr Howlin said. "It recognises Corbyn's position as leader of the opposition who secured 40pc of the vote at the last general election.

"It is already clear that the European Union would facilitate such an extension were there to be a general election.

"The bottom line for all involved is that you don't have to support Jeremy Corbyn either personally or politically to support a proposal. It is merely a way of preventing no deal and the mandateless pursuit of it by an unelected prime minister.

"If Corbyn were not to honour it, he would be finished."

However, privately one Irish Labour source acknowledged the plan was doomed.

"Pity everyone hates him," the source said. "Including his own MPs."

Sinn Féin was cool on the proposition of Mr Corbyn entering Downing Street, despite its long-standing admiration for the left-wing MP whose links to the Irish republican cause have been the source of controversy.

Mr Corbyn met with Sinn Féin politicians a number of times at Westminster during the 1990s prior to the IRA ceasefire. Prior to retiring as Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams described Mr Corbyn as an "outstanding politician" and backed him to become prime minister.

But party figures were non-committal on the idea yesterday.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, the Sinn Féin leader in the Seanad, said: "I don't think it would be right for us to interfere or comment either way."

Meanwhile, Belfast-based senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said: "We won't be commenting on it as it's not our place to decide who becomes British prime minister, it's a matter for the British people."

Mr Howlin was critical of Sinn Féin's ongoing refusal to take its seats in Westminster.

"The refusal of Sinn Féin and Mary Lou McDonald to add to the numbers opposing a no-deal Brexit remains infuriating.

"If ever Sinn Féin wanted to prove its credibility as a party prepared to put Ireland first, North and south, this is it."

Asked to comment on the developments in Westminster, the Tánaiste's spokesman said: "If my uncle had boobs he'd be my auntie. We're not going into the realms of speculation."

Irish Independent

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