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What's happened to the Government's review of Sinn Fein's expenses?

By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-09-09 at 11.50.51 We reported earlier today the Daily Mail's lively account of Owen Paterson's musings yesterday over Sinn Fein MPs and the oath (or affirmation) of allegiance.  The Mail said that Sinn Fein has in effect been invited to "write [its] own oath", and that Paterson's in discussion with Martin McGuinness on the matter.  His intention, clearly, is to put Sinn Fein on the spot - and issue a reminder of its MPs' unreasonableness in not taking their seats.

This isn't a new initiative by Paterson.  He was answering questions at an appearance before the Northern Ireland Select Committee, and was bound to repeat what he's said before - and other Shadow Northern Ireland Secretaries said in Opposition.

I can see that it's a logical extension of the peace process to inveigle Sinn Fein MPs to sit at Westminster, like any other person elected to the Commons.  But I'm against expending energy on the project.  They almost certainly won't take their seats, however many adjustments are made to the oath.  And it's against every Tory instinct to tamper with the oath.  Why take the oath to the Queen down when portraits of her are going up?

A more pressing matter is Sinn Fein MPs and their expenses.  David Cameron seemed to suggest in June that the matter should be re-examined.  What's happened to the review?  By the way, Paterson said last year that: "It is unacceptable for Sinn Fein representatives, who won't even sit in Parliament, to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds at the taxpayers expense".  The facts haven't changed since then.


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