One Compromise with Republican Orthodoxy Sinn Fein Won’t Make

Pete Trumbore casts doubt on a claim by Martin McGuiness that Sinn Fein will never abandon the principle of abstentionism from the Westminster parliament. Professor Peter Trumbore blogs @ Observations / Research / Diversions.
Martin McGuinness

In a long interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, former IRA chief of staff and one of the stalwarts of Sinn Fein’s peace strategy, stood firm on one of the few pillars of traditional Republican orthodoxy still standing.

Asked if Sinn Fein would take its seats at Westminster in the event that a friendly Labour government needed its support in parliament, McGuinness was adamant:

No. Our position has been on the record for many decades and I don’t envisage any change whatsoever; there is no mood for it within the party. Quite apart from the principle involved it could damage the cohesion of mainstream republicanism. I think that is not something that a leadership that has been very precious about cohesiveness would contemplate.

He denied that this position was underpinned by fear of a backlash from Sinn Fein supporters who up until now have gone along with every compromise the party’s leadership has made, from declaring a permanent end to the armed campaign, standing down the IRA, decommissioning weapons, to recognizing the legitimacy of the PSNI, taking seats in the partitionist institutions of Stormont and Leinster House, and administering British rule as partners in government with the DUP.

That is not the reason. The reason is that we have a principled republican position. Politicians are criticised left, right and centre for not having principled positions but on this matter we don’t see any advantage in change either. The negotiations that I have been involved in with successive British Prime Ministers over the the last 20-odd years have borne more fruit than me being the MP for Mid Ulster. I had more access than many Labour and Conservative backbenchers had.

So that settles it then. This is the one Republican principle left on which the party stands firm. Until it doesn’t.

And that time will come, as McGuinness unwittingly acknowledged, when the party’s leaders no longer see any advantage in leaving the last pillar of Republican orthodoxy standing.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

3 comments to ''One Compromise with Republican Orthodoxy Sinn Fein Won’t Make"

  1. Indeed Peter, beyond questioning the logic that enables them to sit in Stormont and Leinster House, but not Parliament, I imagine when the Budget cuts draw blood further down the line, there will be a clamber for SF representatives to sit in Parliament to help prevent such abominations in the future. I expect former Republicans to cheer them on for such a brave decision, and for enduring the pain of sitting in such a terrible place so that others wont have to.

  2. "The negotiations that I have been involved in with successive British Prime Ministers over the the last 20-odd years have borne more fruit than me being the MP for Mid Ulster."

    Could someone possibly point me in the direction of one thing this deluded fool has negotiated in the last 20 odd years? I've only ever seen them hurtling in the same direction of the SDLP with principles being cast aside at every turning.

  3. DaithiD, I see a logic in sitting in Dublin and Belfast but not London. In fact I am happy to see power move even if only slightly so some decisions are made in Northern Ireland through devolution rather than in Westminster.

    I wouldn't vote for Sinn Fein if they took their Westminster seats as I don't see why they should give legitimacy to the system in London. Taking part in Westminster would be less acceptable than Stormont with the former's two houses, the Lords having hereditary members and both ruling Ireland from Britain.

    I can see taking part in Stormont may strengthen the Union particularly after the dreadful negotiations that came up with the triple lock veto. But in principle if partition isn't changing I would like to see local people making local decisions. Not legitimising decisions made in the House of Commons.

    Saying all the above I have to say Ruairi O'Bradaigh seems to be proven correct that joining Leinster House and Stormont only lessens the chance of an end to partition. If he is in fact right then taking part in Westminster would make things worse. In any case at least we have a move in power with Republicans having the chance to influence decisions in Ireland.

    I wouldn't want to have to wait until partition ends before Republicans of whatever hue take part in decision making. But then we're back to what O'Bradaigh said about that scenario making unification more unlikely.

    It's a paradox. Wait until partition ends before taking part in decision making in Ireland or take limited power and possibly postpone unification.


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