[Sinn Fein]

18th December 2001

Rule change on facilities at Westminster welcomed

Speaking following today's vote granting Sinn Fein facilities at Westminster the MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty speaking from London said that the decision was an acknowledgement that the rights and entitlements of Sinn Fein members and our electorate had been discriminated against.

Mr. Doherty said:

``The decision by the previous speaker in 1997 to change the rules and prohibit Sinn Fein MPs from using facilities at Westminster was wrong and discriminatory. Today's reversal acknowledges this and restores the rights and entitlements of Sinn Fein MPs and our electorate. We have repeatedly raised this important matter with the British government and are now satisfied that it has been concluded.

``Sinn Fein has for some years had a lobbying initiative in London. Today's move will allow this work to be built upon. It will allow us to try and overcome decades of misinformation and British propaganda. We will now be in a much better position to challenge the British government on their policy in Ireland and begin the debate in England around the issue of Irish unity.

``People should also be very clear that this does not mark a shift in the Sinn Fein policy of abstentionism.  The majority of the nationalist electorate supported the legitimate abstentionist position, which we held at the last Westminster election.  We will not be swearing an oath to a British monarch nor will we be taking seats in Westminster.  Today the British government have accepted that using our abstentionist position to deny the rights and entitlements of the Sinn Fein electorate is unacceptable.'' ENDS

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