Sinn Fein's hopes that its four MPs were about to move into some of the most prestigious offices in Westminster were dashed yesterday.
After several inaccurate reports that Sinn Fein had been allocated sumptuous accommodation with panoramic views, the Commons authorities took the unprecedented step of revealing the rather more spartan offices the MPs will occupy.
Instead of an extravagantly restored room, with oak panelling and handmade wallpaper, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew and their staff have been allocated four cramped attic rooms on the top floor of the refurbished St Stephen's Tower.
The rooms, the largest of which is just 120ft (11m) square, are painted in a neutral stone colour and fitted with the standard green Commons carpet. They have little natural light with the smallest, in an octagonal turret, devoid of windows. The suite, reached by a new lift or 83 stone steps, also includes a lavatory and small teapoint.
When the refurbishment is complete, the rooms will be fitted with standard Commons issue oak tables and chairs, filing cabinets, and cooling units to prevent them becoming stifling in the summer.
To Tory and Unionist consternation, Sinn Fein MPs won the right last year to use the Commons facilities, although they regard Westminster as a "foreign parliament". They moved into temporary offices in January, which they immediately adorned with the Irish tricolour, until their new offices were decorated and fitted out. A party spokesman in Belfast said yesterday that Sinn Fein had not been told which rooms it had been allocated for its permanent Westminster base.
Keith Hill, the Deputy Chief Whip, said the Sinn Fein MPs had been given offices which "most other MPs wouldn't be seen dead in".
The grand room two floors below that had been wrongly linked to the party is being given to four senior Conservative backbenchers.
The quality of the Sinn Fein accommodation may ultimately prove to be theoretical as its MPs, who cannot take their seats because they refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, have barely been seen in Westminster in the past two months.
The MPs were granted £107,000 a year each in allowances, and access to most areas of the Commons, after a government-backed motion was passed late last year.Reuse content