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Letter of the day: By abandoning abstentionism, Sinn Fein would serve the interests of people North and South

Brexit

A THOUSAND nationalist signatories from both parts of Ireland published an open letter to the Taoiseach, calling on him to ensure the rights of northern nationalists after Brexit.

In response to a similar letter last year, the Taoiseach, in December 2017, gave a pledge to protect the rights of northern nationalists and all Irish citizens "regardless of their political persuasion or religious beliefs".

It is patently obvious that both the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste have being honouring that pledge throughout the current negotiations with the EU.

In their open letter, these 1,000 signatories, quite correctly, cite the DUP as the main threat to these rights, given the current dependence of the British Government on their votes.

Given this, can I suggest that these same signatories write a similar letter to another political player that is able to exercise what could be an even more pivotal influence in neutralising the influence of the DUP: Sinn Fein.

In any final vote on Brexit, Sinn Fein MPs would have seven votes. The political arithmetic at Westminster for securing the correct political decision which would protect the rights of citizens in both parts of Ireland is on a knife-edge. In recent votes on the Brexit issue, the Conservative Government was able to secure a majority of only five votes. These 1,000 signatories should ask Sinn Fein to end their sterile policy of abstention. After all, Sinn Fein operated a policy of abstentionism in relation to other elected institutions, including the Dail and Stormont, and ended it when it suited them.

And, on this occasion, ending their abstention of Westminster and participating in all votes on Brexit would best serve the interest of all citizens in both parts of Ireland.

JOHN CUSHNAHAN

Former Fine Gael MEP and leader of the Alliance Party

Belfast Telegraph

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