Saturday 24 March 2018

'It is totally outrageous' - Anger as Sinn Féin claims more than £1m from Westminster

The Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photo: GETTY
The Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photo: GETTY

Adrian Rutherford

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to cut Sinn Féin MPs' money after it emerged they claimed more than £1m (€1.1m) from Westminster in the past decade.

The party received £1,119,796 in representative money between February 2006 and April this year.

It received the money despite Sinn Féin's abstentionist policy, with its MPs refusing to take their seats in parliament.

The House of Commons agreed to grant Sinn Féin representative money in 2006.

High-profile MPs during this time included party president Gerry Adams, who from 1997 to 2011 was an abstentionist MP for the Belfast West constituency.

The late Martin McGuinness was the MP for Mid Ulster until his resignation in 2013.

Francie Molloy: ‘lazy argument from political unionism’. Photo: Tom Burke
Francie Molloy: ‘lazy argument from political unionism’. Photo: Tom Burke

However, the revelation that the party still receives around £100,000 a year on average in expenses and allowances prompted anger.

Sinn Féin has said that the money is needed to fund what it termed a "first-class constituency service".

But North Down MP Sylvia Hermon, who obtained the figures in a parliamentary question, said it was "outrageous" and that the UK government must act on the matter.

"Frankly, I believe it is totally outrageous that Sinn Féin continues to receive vast amounts of public money for its absentee MPs," she said.

"I also believe Theresa May's Conservative government should test the will of the current House of Commons on this issue, and do so this autumn.

"As the composition of the House has changed radically since 2006, when Tony Blair's government introduced the notion of Representative Money for absentee Sinn Féin MPs, Theresa May should give the MPs of 2017 a vote on this.

"The public is entitled to see which current MPs support the giving of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money to MPs who refuse to take their seats at Westminster."

But in response, Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy said it was "a lazy argument from political unionism".


"Sinn Féin goes before the electorate on the basis of active abstentionism," he said.

"In the recent election, we increased our vote in all constituencies and secured three additional MP seats.

"We now have seven MPs elected on an active abstentionist mandate.

"Our MPs do not get paid by Westminster but provide excellent representation and first-class constituency service and as part of Sinn Féin's all-Ireland team we act on behalf of constituents at council, Stormont, the Dáil and at the EU.

"Sinn Féin MPs have offices in Westminster and hold regular meetings and briefings with other parties.

"It would seem that there are those who would seek to deny those who voted for us their democratically expressed representation."

Responding to questions from Ms Hermon, Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, explained: "Under a resolution of the House financial assistance is provided to opposition parties represented by members who have chosen not to take their seats.

"It is the government's view that this issue is primarily a matter for the House itself to resolve."

Irish Independent

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