Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein: Anyone who thinks we should take Westminster seats 'living in a fool's paradise'

Sinn Fein Brexit spokesman David Cullinane has said that anyone who believes the party should end their abstentionist policy and take their seats in Westminster is "living in a fool's paradise".

Sinn Fein has received widespread criticism from across the political spectrum for the policy after a key vote on Monday passed by only three votes.

The party currently has seven MPs at Westminster but do not take their seats.

"To those who say Westminster doesn’t matter - wake up," said SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

"Our future is being torn apart by the British Government. Abstentionism is not acceptable. Sinn Fein gift Theresa May a win over Brexit. SDLP MPs would have been there to stop Tories."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the anti-Brexit majority in Northern Ireland was not represented in Westminster claiming hardline Brexiteers won the vote because of Sinn Fein's absence.

At Westminster on Monday MPs agreed to an amendment which supporters have claimed ends the prospect of a customs border in the Irish sea.

The DUP and pro-Brexit members of the Conservative Party claimed the amendments effectively end the EU's 'Backstop' customs plan.

The backstop option would have seen Northern Ireland remain in the Customs Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Waterford TD David Cullinane defended the abstentionist policy and said his party still wield major influence from outside Parliament.

"Westminster and the Tory civil war is what has caused this problem, so if anyone believes that is where the solution will be found, they are living in a fool’s paradise," Mr Cullinane said.

“There was no vote on the border in the Irish Sea amendment and the overall bill passed by 33 votes so the notion that Sinn Féin MPs could have had an impact is a red herring.

“Where we do have a major impact is within the Brexit negotiations to such an extent that even the British Government has conceded we are ‘strongly influencing’ those talks."

Mr Cullinane said that the party taking their seats would make little difference to the Brexit process.

“That is how we will continue to represent the 238,000 voters who endorsed our abstentionist platform to oppose Brexit, a border, Tory austerity and to progress equality, rights and Irish unity," he said.

“Those negotiations remain the place where the terms of Brexit will be decided, not the benches of Westminster where Theresa May has made it clear that she intends to ignore the wishes of the people on the north on this and many other issues.”

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