Belfast Telegraph

Boothroyd condemns Sinn Fein move

Parliament's allegiance to the monarchy should not be "messed with" to allow Sinn Fein MPs to take their seats in the House of Commons, Baroness Boothroyd said.

The former Commons Speaker raised her concerns in the light of comments from Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson that he was "open to suggestions" from Sinn Fein on ways to vary the oath of allegiance taken by MPs.

Sinn Fein MPs have traditionally not taken their seat at Westminster and refused to swear that they will bear "true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth".

Lord Shutt of Greetland told peers at question time in the House of Lords that the Government had no plans to change the text of the oath.

He added: "The Prime Minister and Secretary of State have made clear their belief that Sinn Fein should take their seats in Parliament.

"If the oath is a barrier to them doing so it is up to Sinn Fein to suggest an alternative. It would be for Parliament to consider any changes."

Lady Boothroyd, a crossbench peer, pointed to a European court ruling while she was Commons Speaker that the "oath of allegiance is part of our constitutional arrangements and Sinn Fein's refusal to take it legitimately debars them from taking their seats".

She asked Lord Shutt: "Will you confirm that Parliament's allegiance to our constitutional monarchy will not be messed with for the convenience of any party or government and bring your answer to the attention of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland?"

Lord Shutt said that the Government was not aware whether the oath was a "major problem" for the five Sinn Fein MPs or whether they would "want to abstain from coming to the Commons in any event".

He added: "What the Secretary of State has said is that if there is a problem let them raise it and let us see if there is a way that can be solved."

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