The 1,000 nationalist signatories rightly criticised the DUP. Now they should write to Sinn Fein

In recent votes on Brexit the Conservative government was able to secure a majority of only five votes, writes John Cushnahan, votes which Sinn Fein could have changed. Above, MPs in the House of Commons after the government actually lost a division in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in December 2017 when MPs supported a Tory rebel amendment for a "meaningful vote". Photo: PA Wire
In recent votes on Brexit the Conservative government was able to secure a majority of only five votes, writes John Cushnahan, votes which Sinn Fein could have changed. Above, MPs in the House of Commons after the government actually lost a division in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in December 2017 when MPs supported a Tory rebel amendment for a "meaningful vote". Photo: PA Wire

A thousand nationalist signatories from both parts of Ireland published an open letter to the Taoiseach in Monday’s Irish News (November 5) calling on him to ensure the rights of northern nationalists in the wake of Brexit.

In this letter, these 1,000 signatories quite correctly cite the DUP as the main threat to these rights given the current dependence of the British government on their votes.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

Given this factual assessment can I suggest that these same signatories write a similar letter to another political player who are able to exercise potentially what could be an even more pivotal influence in neutralising the influence of the DUP – this party is Sinn Fein.

In any final vote at Westminster on the Brexit deal, Sinn Fein MP’s would have seven votes.

Furthermore, if they were present and active at Westminster, they would also be in a stronger position to argue the case for the introduction of legislation on same-sex marriage and a practical Irish language Act and if the Westminster Parliament legislated on these it would remove some of the stumbling blocks to restoring power-sharing devolution.

The Irish government has an important role to play but it should not be simply acting on behalf of one side of Northern Ireland’s still obviously divided community.

It has to ensure the continuance of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement ensuring that it respects the rights of all traditions.

In response to a similar letter last year, the Taoiseach in December 2017 gave a pledge to protect the rights of northern nationalists and all Irish citizens “regardless of their political persuasion or religious beliefs”.

It is patently obvious to everyone that both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have being honouring that pledge throughout the current negotiations with the EU.

The political arithmetic at Westminster for securing the correct political decision which would protect the rights of all citizens in both parts of Ireland is on a knife edge.

In recent votes on the Brexit issue the Conservative Government was able to secure a majority of only five votes. These 1,000 signatories should ask Sinn Fein to end their sterile policy of abstention and use their important seven votes.

After all, abstentionism has never been an issue of political principle for Sinn Fein.

They operated a policy of abstentionism in relation to other elected institutions including the Dail and Stormont and ended it when it suited them.

And on this occasion ending their abstention of Westminster and participating in all votes on Brexit would best serve the interest of all citizens in both parts of Ireland.

John Cushnahan, former Alliance leader and Fine Gael MEP, Limerick