An Anglo-Irish centenary event in the home of the Commons’ Speaker has been re-arranged because he does not want Sinn Fein MPs to attend.
The party’s five absentionist MPs were on the guest list for an event to commemorate the 100 years since the Home Rule Act, due to take place at Speaker’s House – the official residence of John Bercow.
However, Mr Bercow has determined that it would be “a mark of respect to the House” not to allow them to come along to the venue, because they do not accept their seats in Parliament.
Instead, the event has reportedly been moved to the Irish Embassy in London.
It is not known if Mr Bercow will attend the gathering, believed to be taking place on July 1.
A spokeswoman for the speaker said: “As Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats in the House of Commons, it has been a long held practice that the hospitality of the State Rooms in Speaker’s House is not extended to them.
“This is a mark of respect to the House.”
A Commons spokeswoman was also quoted as telling the Mail on Sunday: “Mr Bercow felt that since the Sinn Fein MPs do not respect the traditions of the Commons, it would not have been appropriate to allow them into Speaker’s House,” adding that previous speakers have also held the same point of view.
It also quotes an anonymous MP as saying that the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers had also applied pressure to try and make sure the event was held in the Speaker’s House – a frequent staging venue for official gatherings.
However, the Northern Ireland Office did not respond when efforts were made to contact it last night.
Neither did Sinn Fein offer any comment when the matter was put to them yesterday afternoon.
The MPs in question – Pat Doherty, Michelle Gildernew, Paul Maskey, Conor Murphy and Francie Molloy – do not accept salaries from Parliament because of their refusal to swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen and thus take their seats.
However, the abstentionist stance has not prevented allowances being claimed from Westminster.
The planned gathering is to mark 100 years since Westminster’s Home Rule Act – effectively a bill designed to bring devolved government to Ireland.