SF abstentionism 'not credible', says FG
Sinn Féin must take its seats in the House of Commons and help minimise the impact of Brexit on Ireland, Fine Gael's spokesman on European Affairs has warned.
Senator Neale Richmond repeated calls for the party's MPs to take their seats in Westminster, stressing that any Brexit deal must get through the House of Commons as well as the European Parliament.
The spokesman for European Affairs in the Seanad warned: "Hiding beyond the mantra of abstentionism is no longer credible. It is not a sacred cow that is above analysis or indeed a change of opinion."
Last week, Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill ruled out any change to the abstentionist policy, describing suggestions to the contrary as "a wee bit of nonsense".
"The people of the North turned their back on Westminster," she added.
But as pressure mounts over the impact that Brexit will have on the entire island, Mr Richmond (inset) used the Féile an Phobail event in West Belfast to hammer home the point.
"Sinn Féin are in a unique position to materially influence the futures of all peoples on this island in the post-Brexit era," he said.
"In having mandates to serve in both the European Parliament and the House of Commons, Sinn Féin representatives can stand up and be counted when it comes to minimising the damage of Brexit on the island of Ireland.
"I make no apology for once again pointing out the gravity of the situation and the opportunity that lies before the seven Sinn Féin MPs, and indeed the four Sinn Féin MEPs, to be part of the meaningful Brexit vote," the senator added. He said that the recent votes on the withdrawal bill as it passed through Westminster had given us "a clear insight into the battle that lies ahead for any Brexit deal" and that Sinn Féin could make a marked difference.
"Margins of three or four or five cannot be merely dismissed.
"The voting to take place on any deal will be even more vital," he added.
Sinn Féin is also under pressure on the matter of the Border, with leader Mary Lou McDonald contradicting herself earlier this week.
Ms McDonald said that while the "dangers" posed by Brexit were present, it was not the time for a Border poll.
But on Tuesday, Ms McDonald said that if there was to be a hard Brexit next year, the British government would have to hold a Border poll.
Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael seized on the apparent abrupt U-turn. Ms McDonald said: "The appetite for the unity debate is growing every day.
"Sinn Féin wants to see a referendum as soon as possible. We want to build maximum consensus for unity and win that referendum."