Martin McGuinness – the involuntary Steward and Bailiff
On the face of it, this is very funny. In one lifetime, the boy from Derry has progressed from being an armed republican rebel to holding a feudal office, whose previous occupants include Enoch Powell and Ian Paisley – except that we can be sure that McGuinness never asked whether he wanted to be a steward or a bailiff of anywhere, and would have said no, if asked.
We have been here before. A year ago, Gerry Adams, who was MP for West Belfast, sent the Commons authorities a letter of resignation. But an old constitutional quirk says that MPs cannot resign; they can only disqualify themselves by taking an “office of profit under the crown.” So Adams also, briefly, without knowing it, became Steward of Northstead.
The Democratic Unionist Nigel Dodds thought this was a good laugh, and joked about it at Prime Minister’s Questions, eliciting an equally jocular reply from David Cameron. The dour Sinn Fein leader was not amused. In a furious statement, he protested: “I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office. I am an Irish republican. I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system. I simply resigned.”
Likewise, all McGuinness wanted to do was renounce his seat as Sinn Fein MP for Mid Ulster, which he has never taken anyway, to focus on being Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister.Tagged in: Martin McGuinness
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