Sinn Fein defends London parliamentary expenses

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Sinn Fein, the political ally of the IRA, today defended its claiming of rental allowance for properties in London despite its refusal to sit in the British parliament.

The Telegraph reported Sinn Fein's five MPs had claimed 437,405 pounds as part of the cost of renting a town house, a two-bedroom flat and occasionally a third property in London.

The party refuses to take up its parliamentary seats in Westminster because it would involve swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Pat Doherty, Sinn Fein's MP for West Tyrone, said on Monday he and the other MPs went over to London on average 4-5 days a month on constituency and lobbying business.

"We as individuals make no personal gain whatsoever from any of this money," he told state broadcaster RTE.

"Our figure is all inclusive that covers all the cleaning, all the parking rights, all the local rates, everything to do with maintaining that flat in London."

Embarrassing revelations over MPs' expenses have prompted the lowest support levels for the Labour party since 1943.

A 1998 peace deal that ended the IRA's 30-year military campaign to rid Northern Ireland of British control brought Sinn Fein into the political mainstream and they have been able to claim parliamentary expenses since 2001.

Doherty said that Sinn Fein may pocket the difference between the allowances given to its MPs for running second homes in the UK and the actual cost of the properties.

"That may well be the case but there is nothing illegal or wrong in what we do."