McDonald rules out change to abstentionist policy

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has ruled out the possibility of the party changing its abstentionist policy or participating in any Westminster vote on Brexit or other issues. 

Ms McDonald was speaking at Lissadell House in Co Sligo, the ancestral home of Countess Markievicz – the first female MP elected to the British Parliament.

Speaking to RTÉ News in Lissadell where Sinn Féin held its Ard Comhairle meeting, Ms McDonald said: “We are in the home of Markievicz. It is 100 years on from that famous election of 1918.”

“The abstentionist position is as principled, as valid, and I believe as important today as it was a century ago,” she added.

Sinn Féin provides seven of Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs. The DUP has ten representatives and Independent Unionist Sylvia Hermon is the other Northern Ireland member.

The party has come under renewed calls to revise their policy and take their seven seats in Westminster.

As the vote on the draft Brexit agreement nears, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on Ms McDonald’s party to give up the seats to representatives who would take them, enabling them to vote in the critical ballot next week.

Sinn Féin have remained steadfast in their policy that they will not take their seats in the House of Commons or pledge allegiance to the Queen, a point reiterated by Ms McDonald today, before taking aim at her political rivals.

“These revisionists celebrate the election of Markievicz as the first woman elected to Westminster, as they should,” Ms McDonald said.

She added: “What they ignore is her principled abstention from that parliament, her pledge to never take an oath of allegiance to the power she meant to overthrow.

“These revisionists attack Sinn Féin for that same principled stance. That unwillingness to take an oath of allegiance to a foreign power.

“I ask those revisionists: would they take that oath?

“One hundred years on and Constance Markievicz remains a troubling figure for those in power.

“Because she stands against the hypocrisy of Irish political leaders calling on others to swear an oath to a queen.”

The event, held at the birthplace of Constance Markievicz in Lissadell House, Co Sligo, discussed themes such as the power of the vote, and the 1918 election.

Additional reporting: PA