IS it time for Sinn Féin to take their six seats in Westminster and defend Irish interests as the UK continues to veer wildly towards a Brexit cliff face, Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan has asked.
Senator Feighan, who is Vice-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and a member of the Good Friday Implementation Committee, has said that the historical policy of abstentionism at the House of Commons should no longer be the only path pursued by Sinn Féin.
“As it stands, a key vote on any potential Brexit deal between the EU and UK will be held without Sinn Féin’s six MPs casting their ballots.
“The continual refusal by Sinn Féin to even contemplate entering the House of Commons and take their seats at Westminster at such a critical juncture in European affairs and Brexit negotiations – which has a direct impact on Ireland and its people – is a situation which I don’t feel is in the national interest.
“There is enormous goodwill towards Ireland in the UK and in Westminster. Indeed, I have noticed there is a significant Irish Caucus in the House of Commons who are providing a strong voice for Ireland and are enhancing UK-Irish relations.
“The SDLP was a great voice for Irish nationalism in Westminster and played its part for this island. Previously, Sinn Féin had an abstentionist position regarding Dáil Éireann and Stormont.
“However, they changed their minds on this and it was a welcome move made out of political necessity. So, maybe now is the time for Sinn Fein to take up their seats in Westminster for Ireland.
“Only last week, former British Prime Minister John Major said a defeat of the upcoming Brexit vote in parliament could to lead to a second vote on EU membership in the UK.
“So I ask again, is it now more than time for Sinn Féin to influence such affairs in London which could be helpful from a nationalist perspective?” Senator Feighan said.