Sinn Féin will not take Westminster seats to ‘save’ Brexit deal

McDonald says party will not ‘ride in on a white charger’, dismissing Coveney call

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste should not be ‘harbingers of doom’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste should not be ‘harbingers of doom’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has ruled out any possibility of her party’s seven MPs taking their seats in the House of Commons to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal.

The UK prime minister has faced opposition from many within her own party as well as government partners the Democratic Unionist Party over the draft deal.

Mrs May faced a tumultuous week that saw the departure of ministers including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, and the launch of a high-profile insurrection on the back benches to remove her from office.

Mrs May says she hopes to bring the deal before parliament for a vote before Christmas. While any such vote is expected to be tight, Ms McDonald said her party will not “ride in on a white charger” to save the day.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has urged Sinn Féin to take its seats to vote on the deal, adding that if the Westminster ballot was lost by two or three votes then “people will rightly ask some pretty serious questions” of Sinn Féin.

Ms McDonald accused Mr Coveney of “playing to the gallery” during his Fine Gael party conference, which is taking place in Dublin this weekend.

“The Tánaiste is playing to the gallery, he knows full well that Sinn Féin has been extremely active in defending Irish interests at every level,” she said.

“He knows Sinn Féin has an abstentionist policy, he knows full well that the British parliamentarians have to arrive at their decision, he knows that Sinn Féin cannot ride in on its white charger and make all of this go away.

“The Tánaiste has urged measure in the comments that people make in terms of seeing this deal over the line. I think he needs to practise what he preaches.”

Ms McDonald also urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to be cautious as he addresses his party conference.

“I think the Taoiseach and Tánaiste as they speak to their party conference this weekend need to bear in mind that Brexit is for keeps, it is not done yet, we are still in the middle of a very, very dangerous scenario for this entire country,” she said.

“They need to lead from the front, not be speculators on the sidelines, not to be harbingers of doom, but to act responsibly, to lead and to ensure that whatever happens there will be no hardening of the border, that our peace agreements will be protected, that our economy will be protected and that citizens’ rights will be underwritten.”

Ms McDonald spoke to the media in Dublin on Saturday morning as she attended a meeting of Sinn Féin’s leadership over Brexit and its ramifications for Ireland.

The DUP has indicated it intends to vote against the withdrawal deal when it comes before parliament, while Independent North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon says she is considering which way she will vote, adding she wants assurances from the prime minister. - PA