Letter: Are Sinn Fein pair real MPs?

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Sir: The decision of the Speaker of the House of Commons to exclude duly elected members of the House from enjoying its privileges unless they swear allegiance to the Crown is a grave political mistake and essentially undemocratic.

No decision could be more detrimental to the cause of reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The issue at the heart of its conflict is precisely acceptance or rejection of that allegiance. Nationalists have every right to reject it. To exclude an Ulster MP in any way from the privileges of Parliament for insisting on the very policy for which his constituents elected him is simply to reassert the inbuilt injustice of Northern Ireland's political condition and to imply that that injustice can only be altered by the gun.

It is as vital that properly elected MPs can take their seats without swearing allegiance to the Crown as it was in the 19th century to allow them to do so without recognising the existence of God. Failure to see this suggests that the British political establishment still understands precisely nothing about Northern Ireland.