McGuinness gives up seat in British parliament

January 01, 2013 - 3:52:53 am

BELFAST: Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday resigned from the British parliament after 15 years, during which he never actually took his seat.

The former IRA commander is standing down from the House of Commons as part of his Sinn Fein party’s move to end “double-jobbing”, in which many of its politicians hold multiple positions at different levels of government.

McGuinness was first elected to Westminster in 1997 but has never taken his seat because of Sinn Fein’s abstentionist policy, which is based on the party’s refusal to recognise British sovereignty over Northern Ireland.

He remains deputy first minister in the power-sharing government in Belfast and keeps his seat in the Northern Ireland assembly. His Sinn Fein colleague Francie Molloy will contest the Westminster seat in an upcoming by-election.

“I am resigning as MP but I have no intention of leaving (the constituency of) Mid-Ulster. South Derry and East Tyrone have suffered immensely as a result of the conflict,” McGuinness said in a statement. “I will always be grateful to the people of this area for trusting me to represent them and their interests.”

McGuinness was a leading member of the Irish Republican Army, the paramilitary group which fought for Northern Ireland to become part of Ireland during three decades of bloody sectarian conflict in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.