Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood affirms allegiance to Queen 'under protest'

Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has affirmed his allegiance to the Queen "under protest".

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During the ceremony in the House of Commons on Thursday, the newly elected Foyle MP also declared that his "true allegiance" is to the "people of Derry and the people of Ireland".

MPs are required by law to make an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Crown before they can take their seats in the Commons, speak during debates, vote or receive a salary.

Mr Eastwood opted to affirm, before stating: "Under protest and in order to represent my constituency, I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.

"My true allegiance is to the people of Derry and the people of Ireland."

The Foyle MP's affirmation comes after his colleague, South Belfast MP Claire Hanna, raised a "respectful protest" with the Commons Speaker over the requirement for MPs to pledge allegiance to the Queen.

In a letter to Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Ms Hanna said:  "I submit this letter to you to register a respectful protest against the requirement that I make a statement of allegiance to the Crown as a precondition for taking my seat.

"I chose an affirmation rather than an oath, but the words do not reflect my outlook."

After reiterating her commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, she added: "I do not believe it serves trust in Parliament for MPs to be obliged to rehearse pledges that are not true for them.

"I believe a better pledge would be one to parliamentary service on behalf of our constituents, with an allegiance pledge for those who wish to make one."

After making her affirmation in the Commons on Wednesday, the South Belfast MP said her allegiance is to those in her constituency and she made the affirmation "in order to serve them".

"I've made this affirmation," she said. "My political commitment is to the Good Friday Agreement, relationships in Northern Ireland, between north and south of Ireland and between these islands based on mutual respect and co-operation."

A number of SNP MPs also stressed the were making the pledge in order to serve their constituents.

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