McGuinness to step down in SF move to end dual mandate
SINN FÉIN Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is to stand down as MP for Mid-Ulster in coming weeks but will remain an Assembly member.
In a Stormont press conference yesterday, he refused to say whether he would meet Queen Elizabeth when she visits Northern Ireland this month. Such a meeting would be a “huge ask”, he said.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams announced at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, that Sinn Féin would be ending its dual mandate in the coming weeks.
Mr McGuinness will stand down from his Mid-Ulster Westminster seat, which will prompt a byelection, while Sinn Féin’s four other MPs will resign their Assembly seats.
Ending the dual mandate will involve two former Sinn Féin Northern Executive ministers – Michelle Gildernew from Fermanagh-South Tyrone and Conor Murphy from Newry and Armagh – leaving Stormont.
Also standing down from the Assembly are West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty and Paul Maskey, head of the Assembly’s powerful public accounts committee, who replaced Mr Adams as MP for West Belfast.
The fact that such senior Sinn Féin politicians are abandoning Stormont in favour of Westminster prompted some speculation that Sinn Féin may be considering ending its House of Commons abstentionist policy.
Mr Adams, however, said this was not the case.
“All of the MPs are significant political figures both within their constituency and nationally. We expect them to remain so. They won’t be taking their seats in the British House of Commons,” he said.
“However, they will be freed up for an increased lobbying activity in both Britain and elsewhere with respect to policy areas that are particularly relevant to their constituents and also, of course, with respect to the promotion of the case for Irish unity.
“We are in a continuing process of party-building North and South. Our membership is increasing, support for our political analysis and our core objective is increasing.
“Other parties have spoken about ending the practice of dual mandates; we have now acted to make it happen.”
Mr Adams said it could be the case that some of the MPs would return to Stormont when the next Assembly elections are held in 2015 or 2016.
The MPs resigning from the Assembly can be replaced by co-option.
At the press conference neither Mr Adams nor Mr McGuinness would state clearly whether the Deputy First Minister would meet Queen Elizabeth during her jubilee visit to Northern Ireland over June 26th and 27th.
“This would be a huge ask for any Irish republicans. And as we speak at this moment we don’t have a doable proposition,” said Mr McGuinness.
Mr Adams added: “It would be a huge ask for any Irish republican to meet the English queen. We are very respectful of the desire for others who may want to do that and we don’t have a doable proposition at this time.”
He would not explain what would make such an encounter “doable”.
“We are not going to get into speculation or indeed to answer hypothetical questions,” said Mr Adams.