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Sinn Fein Plan to Open Parliament Office Rejected

May 15, 1997|WILLIAM D. MONTALBANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — Betty Boothroyd, the formidable speaker of the House of Commons, has a brief message for Sinn Fein leaders and their friends in the outlawed Irish Republican Army: It's all, or nothing at all.

Boothroyd, who spends most of her time in the House of Commons keeping order among feuding pols, on Wednesday vetoed a Sinn Fein plan to open an office in Parliament.

Unlike the 657 others elected to the House, Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness refuse as a matter of principle to swear allegiance to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Therefore, Boothroyd ruled to cheers in Parliament, they lose the rights that come with their election: office facilities, free phones, free postage, the right to bring in guests, and access to House restaurants, barbers, the gym--and the shooting gallery.

Both men were elected from Northern Ireland on May 1 as Irish nationalists representing the political arm of the IRA, which has warred against British rule there for decades.

Both ran on an anti-Parliament, get-Britain-out-of-Ireland ticket. Still, Adams and McGuinness announced last week that while they would not take their seats, they hoped to establish a Sinn Fein base at Westminster. A convicted former IRA member was named to head the office.

That move is not popular among lawmakers, who, like both incoming Labor and the outgoing Conservatives, see little distinction between Sinn Fein and the IRA, which has killed three British politicians since 1979, one of them blown up in a Parliament parking lot.

McGuinness said Sinn Fein will explore legal remedies against the ban. Adams seemed less concerned, saying he and McGuinness will go to Parliament next week to "insist on their entitlements."

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