Friday, February 03, 2006


Hain sets up cash deal for Sinn Féin MPs

Share the wealth I say! I was interested to read in the Telegraph that British Prime Minister Tony Blair plans to create a new parliamentary allowance for Sinn Fein MPs despite their refusal to take their Commons seats.

The move, if approved next week, will mean British taxpayers' money being spent specifically on funding a party whose MPs will not swear allegiance to the British Queen.

It comes on top of separate proposals, also to be voted on next Wednesday, to restore individual MPs' allowances to Sinn Fein representatives. These were suspended after the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery of December 2004, blamed on the IRA.

The move has been met with opposition from within Labour with Andrew Mackinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock, saying he was not persuaded "that it can be justified by the criteria which have been laid down for Short money".

The motion is backed by Peter Hain, the Secretary of State, and Mr Mackinlay told MPs yesterday "this is Hain money, or Sinn Hain, if you like".

However, a spokesman for Mr Hain indicated that the move - along with the restoration of individual allowances - was justified.

Sinn Fein's five MPs do not get the £59,095 MP's salary but are entitled to office space at Westminster.

Until last March, the group was also entitled to claim special allowances for staff and office costs, roughly worth about £600,000 over a full year in total.

Under a motion to be debated next week, the Westminster allowances would be restored and backdated to November, allowing Sinn Fein members overall to claim up to about £200,000.

'I'm going to Disneyland!'
I'll have it made out in Euros!

Many Tories were already poised to oppose that, pointing out that under Lady Boothroyd, the former Commons Speaker, the Sinn Fein MPs were barred from claiming those allowances.

But a separate Opposition Parties (Financial Assistance) motion, proposed by Geoff Hoon, the Commons Leader, and Mr Hain, proposes to give money "to any opposition party represented by members who have chosen not to take their seats and thus do not qualify to participate in the proceedings in Parliament".

Mr Hain's spokesman said that the money, likely to be worth up to £84,000 a year, was a "new category of money" which could be used to develop policies.

This week's report by the Independent Monitoring Commission cited allegations that not all the Provisional IRA's weapons had been disposed of. But the IMC took the view that the IRA's promise last July to end its armed campaign was genuine.

David Lidington, the shadow NI secretary, condemned the move as a "side-deal with Sinn Fein" and a "corruption of parliamentary allowances".

The plans also provoked outrage among unionists. Peter Robinson, the DUP deputy leader, asked why the Government wanted to reward Sinn Fein "while the police are indicating the high level of criminality within the republican movement".

But Conor Murphy, the Sinn Fein MP for Newry and Armagh, said the plan would help end "discrimination against our electorate".

I must say I back the stance of the British government and I agree with Conor Murphy on the issue. It's not right to discriminate against Sinn Féin. They have a mandate and should not be punished due to the fact they are Republicans instead of monarchists.

This is a smart move by Tony Blair and Peter Hain. It's nice to see a British government that has some sense. Well done to them.


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