Belfast Telegraph

We don't need to be in Parliament in order to fight Brexit: Sinn Fein


Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Sinn Fein has insisted it can continue to fight Brexit from outside Westminster, despite recognising that "the stakes are very, very high".

Election & Brexit briefing Newsletter

The Belfast Telegraph's General Election 2019 briefing, plus Brexit news, opinions and analysis.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald described the House of Commons as "the place British state figures out its position on Brexit" and suggested the 10 DUP MPs who sat on the green benches had no influence despite holding the balance of power.

Sinn Fein's critics have pointed out that the party's MPs could have changed the result of several Brexit votes had they taken their seats in the Commons.

Speaking at the launch of her party's manifesto in Londonderry, however, Ms McDonald insisted that securing the best outcome for Northern Ireland in a Brexit deal would not be done in the House of Commons.

She said: "It has been said that this election is the election of a generation - that is not just rhetoric, it is true because Brexit has changed everything.

"It has the effect of uniting improbable allies in the face of real threats to people's livelihood and in the face of that threat we have come together.

"We have set aside very significant political differences and we have said, in this election it is important that people use, that people lend, that people borrow votes from others to ensure that, loud and clear again it is heard that the North has not and will not consent to Brexit.

Sign In

"We insist that our island, our people and our community are protected and that is the message that will be delivered to Nigel Dodds who revelled along with his DUP colleagues in their recklessness.

"They wore as a badge of honour the fact that they had pushed this crazy Brexit agenda.

"We were told for a long time by the DUP that they held all the cards, that they were calling all the shots because they were keeping the Tories in power but when it came to it, even they, in those circumstances, were never going to be the determining factor in Brexit.

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill launch the party’s General Election manifesto with colleagues in Londonderry yesterday
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill launch the party’s General Election manifesto with colleagues in Londonderry yesterday

"The truth is no Irish MP, be they nationalist, unionist or otherwise will decide the matter of Brexit.

"That has been decided by the English public and will be shaped in the first instance by their elected representatives."

Ms McDonald dismissed the opportunity to represent the views of people in Northern Ireland who voted for Sinn Fein on the floor of the Commons as farcical.

She continued: "The farce of the notion that you go into the House of Chaos in Westminster and pit your wits against Jacob Rees-Mogg as he reclines on the green benches and snoozes off is frankly fanciful. It is also dishonest. I don't think we should be misleading people because the stakes are very, very high.

"I want people to come out and support Sinn Fein but I want them to come out and support others, not because we want them at Westminster - that is a dead end - but because we know how important it is that the anti-Brexit voice of the North is heard loud and clear.

"Westminster is the place where the British state figures out its position on Brexit. Irish interests do not feature in that conversation.

"Irish interests will and have been defended through the Irish government, through the EU27 who sit on the other side of the negotiation table - and that is where our efforts have to be spent."

The party's deputy leader, Michelle O'Neill, said that once the Westminster election was over the focus will be on Stormont and re-establishing the Assembly.

She said: "We have always stood ready to reform the Assembly. We believe in the Assembly and the Executive because we believe in the promises of the Good Friday Agreement but that is going to take all the parties working together.

"That is going to mean reforming an Executive that is both sustainable and credible so I hope the other parties want to get around the table again.

"We stand ready to conclude the talks process and find a positive resolution, to find a just Executive - one that actually tackles the issues that people want us to tackle, one that actually takes and runs public services, one that actually deals with the mitigation measures we need to deal with the Tory welfare reform issues.

"This election is absolutely all about Brexit but a strong mandate for Sinn Fein also allows us to go back in and deal with the issues that need to be resolved."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph