Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Martin McGuinness becomes Crown aristocrat with 'Steward' title

Martin McGuinness has been given an archaic English aristocratic title to allow him to resign as an MP

Once an IRA member, then Sinn Fein's deputy first minister in Northern Ireland and now Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

Quite a journey for Martin McGuinness, who has been given the British aristocratic title because he resigned his seat as a Westminster MP.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was given the same title two years ago when he resigned as an MP to run for the Dail.

But Mr McGuinness, like Mr Adams before him, says he rejects the title. The pair have never actually taken their Westminster seats, in line with Sinn Fein abstentionist policy.

However, they still drew allowances and expenses from the British parliament, but not a salary, which is only paid to MPs once they take their seat and swear allegiance to the British crown.

Under Commons rules, MPs who quit are eligible for a 'winding up' allowance to shut down offices, amounting to £53,150 in Mr McGuinness's case.

However, a Sinn Fein spokesman could not say last night whether Mr McGuinness would be claiming the allowance.

Under parliamentary rules in the UK, the only way for an MP to resign is to take an office under the British crown.

Two titles are given for this purpose: Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead; and Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham.

Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness were given the first title by George Osborne, the UK chancellor of the exchequer.

The job has no actual responsibilities and is unpaid, and is generally kept by a resigned MP until needed by someone else.

A statement from the Treasury said: "The chancellor of the exchequer has this day appointed James Martin Pacelli McGuinness to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead."

A spokesman for Sinn Fein said: "Martin McGuinness resigned the same way as Gerry Adams in 2011. As Irish republicans we gave no time for antiquated and ridiculous titles of the British parliamentary system then and this remains the situation.

"What we need to see now is the writ being moved for a by-election to allow the people of Mid-Ulster to have their say."

Mr McGuinness, who was elected as MP for Mid-Ulster in 1997, said his decision to stand down was in line with Sinn Fein's commitment to end double-jobbing and that he plans to concentrate on his role as Stormont MLA and deputy first minister.

He said in the summer that he would be resigning from Westminster, but only formally did so this week.

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