Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar calls on Sinn Fein to resign seats in Westminster ahead of Brexit vote

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

By Kevin Doyle

Sinn Fein should consider resigning their seven Westminster seats if the party is unwilling to help pass the Brexit vote, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

With Prime Minister Theresa May desperately trying to build support for the Brexit deal, Sinn Fein’s seven votes could prove crucial.

However, the party is continuing its long-standing policy of abstention, whereby MPs refuse to actually take up their seats in parliament.

Mr Varadkar said today that they should now change tact in order to help Ireland avoid a chaotic no-deal scenario.

He described Mary Lou McDonald’s party as “unusual” because it “isn’t taking up its seats in Westminster for one reason and it isn’t taking up its seats in Stormont for another”.

The Taoiseach said “generally” people get involved in politics because they want “to use the democratic process to get good outcomes for citizens”.

Speaking at a ‘Project Ireland’ event in Dublin on Monday morning, Mr Varadkar went on to say that if Sinn Fein feel they “got elected on the basis of abstentionist” then they “have the option now of resigning their seats and allowing people in those constituencies decide whether or not they want to have a say when this vote comes to Westminster”.

“Bear in mind there are 18 MPs in Northern Ireland, eight of those 10 including Lady Sylvia Hermon are in support of what the UK government are proposing. But seven of those eight because of Sinn Fein aren’t going to show up.”

Ms McDonald has previously defended the party’s decision not to take up the seats, saying her party will not “ride in on a white charger” to save the day.

She warned that there could be unintended consequences if her party took up their seats.

Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)
Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar has said he expects UK politicians will have to accept the Brexit deal “sooner or later”.

He said it is the “best deal” available and cannot be reopened just four months until the UK formally leaves the EU on March 29.

Asked about contingency plans for a no-deal scenario, Mr Varadkar said they were ongoing.

“We are preparing for two scenarios. One is call the central case scenario which is pretty much the deal that’s been done. The second is a hard Brexit, cliff-edge, no-deal scenario.

“In many ways, it’s the same thing, it’s just a graduated response upwards. We are making those preparations. But we need to be realistic here. There’s no country in the European Union that can be fully prepared for a cliff-edge, no-deal Brexit. That’s why it makes sense to agree to this deal,” he said.

In response to the comments, Ms McDonald said the Taoiseach “needs to catch himself on”.

She said Sinn Fein has “no intention of standing aside and abandon our mandate”.

“The reality is that the people of 'those constituencies' have already spoken and they chose abstentionist Sinn Fein MPs.

"The Taoiseach's problem is that he doesn't like the democratic choice of the people of 'those constituencies' and now makes the ludicrous proposition that there should be another election without Sinn Fein's participation, taking the democratic choice away from the people.”

Ms McDonald added that if Fine Gael feels Irish politicians should take seats in the UK Parliament then “they should seek a mandate” and “stop hurling form the ditch”.

“Fine Gael, and Fianna Fail for that matter, should put to the people their willingness to take seats in Westminster and to swearing an oath to a foreign power and let the people decide.”

In a statement, the Sinn Fein leader said Leo Varadkar is the Taoiseach “who famously said the Nationalist people in the North will never again be left behind yet he is now advocating that we reject their democratic wishes”.

Irish Independent

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