19/12/2001

House of Commons votes to allow Sinn Féin offices

The House of Commons has voted to allow the four Sinn Fein members office space and access to allowances enjoyed by other MPs.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith condemned the decision saying that it would create a two-tier system of MPs.

After an emotionally charged lengthy debate, MPs backed the government plans for the controversial move by a margin of 322 votes to 189.

The rule change was vehemently opposed by the Tories who in protest threatened to end cross-party support for the government’s Northern Ireland policy.

Some Labour MPs, Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists were also numbered among the opponents to the motion.

DUP MP for Strangford, Iris Robinson said: “The vote in the House of Commons to permit Sinn Fein entrance to the House is yet another political pay-off to the Republican movement.

But Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, speaking during a visit to Cuba, welcomed the vote.

As staunch Irish republicans Sinn Féin MPs have consistently refused to swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen, which has left them barred from the parliamentary privileges afforded to other MPs.

The change means the four Sinn Fein MPs - Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew - can enter the Commons precincts when Parliament returns in the New Year.

As well as using support services, the MPs can each claim £107,000 a year in allowances to cover staff salaries and expenses. (AMcE)

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