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The Leaving of Westminster

Mark Devenport | 12:10 UK time, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

After twenty seven years of a dysfunctional relationship with the Westminster authorities, it's now clear that Gerry Adams finds, like Neil Sedaka, that "breaking up is hard to do". The Speaker's office insists that, so far as they are concerned, the Sinn Fein President remains West Belfast MP, not withstanding his letter of resignation. My previous assumption that election to the Dail would disbar Mr Adams from Westminster was wrong, as Newsnight's Michael Crick has pointed out on his blog that the Disqualifications Act of 2000 enables the Sinn Fein President to be a member of both houses.

It's not the leaving of Westminster that will grieve Gerry Adams - Irish republicans will not feel any inclination to help the British authorities out with their procedural conundrum. But whilst this matter appears arcane, it does have an impact on the real world in as much as it puts in doubt when, or whether, there will be a by-election in West Belfast.

The parliamentary website says MPs who are quitting must APPLY for the Chiltern Hundreds. Again for reasons of Irish republican tradition, there is now way Gerry Adams will consider this - so, if the failure to hold a by-election becomes a running sore, is it possible that the Chancellor could appoint Mr Adams to "an ofice pf profit under the crown" without consulting him? Alternatively could Westminster take the view that, given the West Belfast MP's long term abstentionism, there's no hurry to fill his seat?


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