Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor

In recent weeks, in the light of Brexit negotiations and the Conservatives’ fragile majority propped up by the Democratic Unionist party, there have been calls from various quarters for Sinn Féin MPs to abandon the Irish republican principle of abstentionism and take part in the British parliament.

Westminster does not now act – and never has acted – other than in the interests of Britain. As our difficult and troubled history tells us, the interests of the Irish people have rarely been the concern of the British government or parliament. In fact, these institutions have often acted against the interests of the Irish people – not just in the past, but as we are seeing now, through the efforts to drag us out of Europe against the democratically expressed wishes of the people in the north of Ireland.

Mickey Brady, MP. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Mickey Brady, MP. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

The crucial point here is that we are not British MPs. We are Irish MPs and we believe the interests of the Irish people can only be served by democratic institutions on the island of Ireland. Sinn Féin goes to the electorate seeking a mandate for that position. We are elected as MPs by people who vote for Sinn Féin not to take seats at Westminster.

As MPs, therefore, we take no part in the Westminster parliament but in every other way we provide active representation for our constituents. We engage with British political parties, civic society and the Irish diaspora in Britain. We challenge the British government directly in our meetings with them. We lobby on constituents’ issues, and on all the political matters that affect the Irish people. We do all of this without drawing a salary from Westminster, or by taking our seats in the British parliament.

The Irish people now see a parliament that runs roughshod over the integrity of their democratically expressed decision by enforcing Brexit upon them, threatening disruption to their border communities, and to their most basic rights and livelihoods.

The people of Ireland will not find a solution to Brexit in the parliament that is imposing it. On Brexit, Irish people in the north look to Sinn Féin, to the Irish government, the Irish parliament and to Europe to defend their interests.

Westminster cannot provide the solutions when Westminster is the problem. Its role in Ireland has never been positive. Numerically, culturally and politically, the people of Ireland are inconsequential to Britain’s ambitions.

Westminster has always turned its back on the people of Ireland, so the people have turned their backs resolutely on the British parliament.

This year republicans and progressives in Ireland celebrate the election of the first female MP to the British parliament 100 years ago. Her name was Constance Markievicz.She never sat in the Westminster parliament. She was an Irish Republican , a feminist, a socialist, and a member of Sinn Féin elected on an abstentionist mandate – rejecting Britain’s claim to sovereignty over Ireland.

One hundred years later I am proud to follow in the footsteps of radical pioneers such as Markievicz.

In 2017, I and other MPs were elected on a mandate to actively abstain from Westminster. We intend to honour that mandate.


Mickey Brady MP

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