West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Pat Doherty responds to offensive insults by SDLP

Published: 6 May, 2015

"While attacking Sinn Fein's policy of active abstentionism it speaks volumes that the local SDLP candidate, in all his glossy campaign literature, was unable to flag up even one thing they have ever achieved for the people of the north by sitting on the green benches at Westminster.

"Decades of failure firmly exposes exaggerated claims of the SDLP regarding their attendance, and influence in Westminster. The reality is that policy formulated in London is, first and foremost, designed in the interests of and to secure the vote of "Middle England" no matter how damaging these policies are to the socio-economic interests of the periphery with the needs of the people of the north not even registering in their considerations.

"For example, both the Tories and Labour (who the SDLP give unqualified support) are committed to the replacement of the Trident Nuclear System at the cost of £100bn while at the same time there has been cuts to £1.5bn to the Assembly Block Grant since 2010 with both parties committed to further cuts in the time ahead to 'balance the budget'.

"This is just one example of how the priorities of whatever government is elected Westminster will continue to act against the interests of the people of the north. By meekly sitting in the Houses of Parliament the SDLP is giving credence to and perpetuating this system.

"It is not just because we refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the English Queen that Sinn Fein refuses to take our seats at Westminster but because as Irish republicans our focus is to shift all decision making powers out of London and into the hands of Irish people in institutions on Irish soil, so that we can have control over our own political, social and economic destiny.

"The participation of Sinn Fein in the Assembly is consistent with this ongoing objective particularly given its integral All-Ireland dimensions negotiated at the Good Friday Agreement such as the North-South Ministerial Council, and joint Implementation bodies. There is no Republican rationale for sitting at Westminster but a very clear one for taking our seats in the Assembly and working to further strengthen and maximise the All-Ireland dimensions to the benefit of everyone on this island.

"Sinn Féin has achieved more in direct negotiations than the SDLP has in the many decades it has spent languishing on the back benches at Westminster. For example on key issues of local importance:

"It was at the St Andrews Agreement that Sinn Féin put the demand for the A5 dual carriageway to top of the political agenda and secured the initial financial commitments from both governments to jointly fund this essential infrastructure project for West Tyrone and the wider north west region.

"It was at the Hillsborough Talks and in subsequent direct negotiations with the MoD that Sinn Fein secured the transfer of the entire Lisanelly/St Lucia base in Omagh to the Department of Education explicitly for use as a new state of the art multi-school educational campus on which work has now commenced.

"The political pressure to deliver the new Cancer Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin did not come about because of any of the MPs sitting in the Westminster Parliament but through a sustained national campaign and direct negotiation by Sinn Fein with the British and Irish governments and Assembly Executive.

"In my capacity as MP, I have lobbied politicians form all the main political parties in London and Dublin extensively on these, and wider, socio-economic issues as well as providing continuous representation to constituents on everyday issues, big and small down, through the years.

"It is therefore significant that the SDLP candidate in his statement is questioning why I and other Sinn Féin MPs should be allowed to claim the expenses which, in terms of our MPs, virtually all goes towards providing this comprehensive service to constituents.

"By questioning this Daniel is in effect saying that people in constituencies like West Tyrone who have had the audacity to elect a Sinn Fein MP should be denied equality of access to constituency office based services. Given the SDLPs continued inconsistent approach to other Equality Issues such as its antics around the Same Sex Marriage vote in the Assembly and its support for the SpAd Bill to actively discriminate against Ex-Prisoners this latest attempt by the SDLP to deny equality is not surprising.

"It is also significant that while Daniel selectively quotes my MP Office Cost Allowance and Expenses as being £515,378 between 2010 and 2014 he omits to include the higher expenses claimed by the 3 SDLP MPs during the same period i.e Margaret Ritchie £651,895.61, Alasdair Mc Donnell £631,895.61 and Mark Durkan on £554,538,54.

"He also omits to state that on top of this all 3 have secured an additional £263,610 in salaries each for this same period-salaries which Sinn Fein MPs are denied.

"He fails to state that his double jobbing party leader Alasdair McDonnell only bothered turning up to 25% of votes at Westminster during this same 4 year period. Margaret Ritchie's voting record is not much better.

"At least Sinn Fein is honest about our Abstentionsim.

"So while some may have ambitions to sit in the Westminster Parliament with all its trappings and pomp to no effect - my life's ambition and work has, and always will be, the furtherance of the goal of a United Ireland based on equality and socio-economic justice for all!