Irish Republican News · August 3, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Northern MPs to gain Dail speaking rights

Reports indicate that the 26-County Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will soon grant the North’s 18 elected MPs and three European MEPs the right to address debates in the Dublin parliament and possibly participate in parliamentary committees.

The reports have been welcomed by Sinn Féin but have provoked a slanging match among unionists.

Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, said he had firm commitments from the Taoiseach that Northern politicians would be able to speak in the Dail, the lower chamber of the Dublin parliament.

Mr Adams said: “I will have the same right to speak on the Rossport Five in Co Mayo, or homelessness in Dublin, or drug problems in Limerick as Michael McDowell or Dermot Ahern have to speak on issues in Belfast or Derry,” he said.

“We want to see this done with all speed and we have very firm commitments that it will be done.”

The DUP this afternoon blamed their rivals in the Ulster Unionist Party for allegedly making the “concession” during multi-party negotiations around the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The party’s deputy leader Peter Robinson claimed he had evidence that the UUP were aware of the prospect during negotiations.

Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey claimed the proposal was outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, in that it amounted to a change to the North’s constitutional status.

“I believe this move is very dangerous because it would effectively be setting up an embryonic all-Ireland parliament,” the East Belfast Assembly member said.

“When the idea was first mooted two years ago the UUP opposed it. We told the two governments then, and have repeatedly since, that if it is pursued by Dublin we will no longer be obligated to our support for North-South institutions.”

Yesterday Sinn Féin vice-president Pat Doherty confirmed it was a demand his party’s negotiators had pressed for.

“The Irish Government have given commitments to facilitate this as an expression of the right of Northern nationalists, of Irish citizens, to participation in the political life of the nation.

“I welcome any move by the Irish Government to give effect to these commitments.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News