The British government has moved to restore the London parliamentary allowances of Sinn Féin MPs, withdrawn following allegations of activity by the Provisional IRA.
The package of allowances and policy development grants s was suspended following the still controversial Northern Bank robbery last year, in which the IRA denied any involvement.
British Direct Ruler Peter Hain has confirmed he will ask for that decision to be reversed, with payments back-dated to November 1st.
In a brief statement, Mr Hain said: “The government is of the view that the major advances by the IRA since its statement of July 28th, 2005, including decommissioning and Sinn Féin’s commitment to the political process, mean the time is right to reinstate the allowances to encourage further political engagement at Westminster.”
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said Mr Hain’s decision was “highly premature”, coming in advance of the imminent report on IRA and other paramilitary activity by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC).
“We have evidence from the police that the IRA is still engaged in criminal activity,” said Mr Donaldson. The, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson, claimed that the move would “cause outrage” in the North of Ireland.
Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy said the removal of the allowances and grants “was an attempt by the British government to damage the electoral rise of Sinn Féin and skew the political landscape in favour of our opponents.
“The announcement by Peter Hain that he is to table motions dealing with both the Westminster allowances and the other monies due to the party is a first step in righting this wrong and ending what is blatant discrimination against our electorate.
“Sinn Féin will continue to watch this situation closely and we will not rest until our electorate are afforded their full rights and entitlements.”