Sinn Fein: Brexit v Abstentionism

Christy Walsh looks at the dilemma faced by Sinn Fein vis a vis Brexit.

The recent UK court decision on Brexit  (R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768) puts Sinn Fein in very tricky waters particularly given its position on taking its seats in the UK Parliament. 

All members of the UK Parliament will be required to vote in a way that best represents their constituencies. The Brexit referendum has shown how close the UK is divided about leaving the EU.  When the UK Parliament casts its vote on Brexit the vote might be so narrowly split that every single vote will count. 

Sinn Fein MPs, and their party, will likely be hung-over after the recent court decision because it puts a lot of pressure on them to defend the peace process from within the House of Commons.   Sinn Fein is also opposed to Brexit because of its implications to Ireland and the peace process.  But here is the problem they are faced with –to defend the peace process their vote in Parliament could be crucial.  That will mean sitting in Parliament in order to vote?   In addition, will SF stand in solidarity with the Scottish?

SF has long held to abstentionism.  But then SF has shifted on long held principles in the past like taking seats in the dreaded Dáil or Stormont.  However, Sinn Fein now recognises all British Institutions up to and including the Queens Sovereignty and her claim over the northern 6 counties of Ireland. I have heard it said that SF would like to take their seats but their electorate might not be ready. Is this its opportunity?  Will it vote in the Commons or not? And whatever befalls Ireland after Brexit will SF have clean hands in the matter, in so far as they did everything possible in their electorates and Ireland’s interests? 

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Anthony McIntyre

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

16 comments to ''Sinn Fein: Brexit v Abstentionism"

  1. There would be a certain irony if the Irish were responsible for subverting the British democratic will, but that aside, do you think those that voted to leave will just accept their MP's voting differently to the result of the referendum? Im pretty sure this would be a catalyst to some sort of facsist leader to represent the democratically dispossesed, do not underestimate the anger they already feel.
    I didnt vote in the referendum, I didnt think Britain would be allowed to leave and said so the day after on this very site, but those that participated (like the MP's) should have the grace to honor the result. Brexit was amongst many things, a rejection of elites who view accountability to those 'lesser' than them as an afront.

  2. Daithi

    It was a longer piece and I just cut and chopped to keep it focused just on SF's abstentionist policy -that had crossed my mind also because the sense I get is that most MPs would vote to remain if given the chance -brexit has opened up a whole load of contradictions -I always thought SF was opposed to the EEC/EU??

  3. Haha Christy, SF and contradictions eh. It would be unusual for them if it was oppositions from their grassroots that was holding up them taking seats, given they have followed the leadership through every indignity so far, and there is very little reason or principle left to not take the seats. But if its for the reason of remaining in Europe, it would be mistake. Basically they could take the fall for the whole thing, and this would take the heat off the Establishment who really want to remain but are weary of defying the referendum. <- Has the ring of another dirty deal doesnt it?

  4. Events dear boys, events!

    As you correctly say Christy abstention from participation in partitionist assemblies for PSF is only a matter of policy. Since '86 its no longer a matter of principle.
    Few of their supporters, I'd wager, will have much difficulty in allowing for a further policy change that permits them to go to Westminster as in such circumstances that might now arise.

    And all easily allowed for as the 'State's men' acting in the national interest!

  5. Whether the shinners do or don't vote won't matter, May still has a majority. If the shinners add their four votes that reduces Mays majority down to six after the recent resignation of one of her MP's. It's now or never for them this is a good excuse to do it, especially if May is defeated, and there's a snap election.

  6. It will be an interesting time if Crooked Hillary can steal the election, and Brexit gets thwarted. At what point will the frogs leap from the pan?

  7. Is this not a pointless action to even consider? Since Labour are not going to vote against invoking article 50 but uphold the democratic wishes of the British people?

  8. Niall, this is Labour of the Iraq War,Bank Bailouts and more recently the anti-Corbyn coup you are talking about?
    I dont think they will themselves block Brexit, its not the way things work, but a quick study of the new lexicon, things like hard/soft brexit, bottom lines in negotiation i.e. things that were not mentioned before the vote will are being tested on us.The vote is now 'accepted' as advisory not binding.
    They will just keep asking the question until we answer correctly,I didnt think it would be any different. (Albiet i thought the spectre of Russia would raised to frighten us more, and Putin would oblige as an apology to world leaders)

  9. Guys the UK democracy operates by way of people voting for MPs and issues of sovereignty will be decided in its Parliament. Ordinarily MPs are supposed to vote according to their electorate but in this case its a bit extraordinary in that the electorate had a separate direct vote via referendum. My understanding of things is as the courts found Parliament must vote on issues affecting sovereignty. The brexit scenario has thrown up a rare clash of procedures.

  10. Christy, the court ruling was that Brexit couldnt be initiated by Royal Perogative, Parliament must pass it. Which is strange because the Government signs treaties etc without putting them before Parliament. All those that are trying to undo the referendums verdict need to own what comes after if they are succesful. The pretense that we are not a technocracy will be harder to maintain after.In anycase, something needs to change in the way governance is conducted, they no longer listen to the others arguement, they just talk past eachother, and reduce the others arguement to something based on a conceit or some malfeasance rather than a legitimate difference of principle.

  11. Daithi,
    Understand your point but the British people have spoken and therefore that is it. Why should those who sit in Parliament have two votes?
    Ridiculous scenario and to go into Parliament to thwart democracy when there is very little chance of thwarting anything is even more I say why do they have two votes?

  12. Daithi

    The bizarre situation is that although the majority voted to leave the EU they did not intend to supercede Parliamentary sovereignty but to vest sovereign control back to their own Parliament away from the EU control. That was UKIPs objective then and not as they are now doing -challenging Parliamentary sovereignty for people power. They are not that sort of popular party but proud of their Britishness -which is its traditions of parliamentary rule and common law. The whole thing is a bit of a cluster fuck or contradictions and they are talking past each other because none want to admit that they do not know how to reconcile the novel majority vote with entrenched traditions.

  13. Niall, why are dingleberries brown? Its just the way sh*t is. We truly get the governance we deserve.

  14. As an ordinary citizen I find the matter relating to brexit and SF very contradictory indeed. The possibility of a situation where by, Republicans will sit in an Imperialist parliament and vote in favor to remain subservient to an Imperialist entity (EU), seems very contradictory to me. What's next.

  15. Hahahaha. Another election it is,what a surprise it will be if this is a proxy vote on Brexit. Of course nobody voted for a "hard" Brexit, of course the public wouldnt want it, its natural they get to vote on it again.Of course if the Govt get the answer they want it will never be asked again.Of course...

  16. The election weakened the Govt's hand, mandated the opposition to scrap any semblance of Brexit,now the spectre of Russia interference is raised :

    This is only a year after the vote.And they have given themselves a further four until they have to decide to tell us it just too difficult.


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