Northern Ireland

Conor McGinn: NI nationalists 'facing democratic deficit'

Conor McGinn
Image caption Conor McGinn said the government had a duty to be an honest broker and a neutral arbiter

A Labour MP has said Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland are facing a democratic deficit because they are not represented at Westminster and the Stormont Assembly is not sitting.

Conor McGinn from Camlough, County Armagh, said debates this week on NI's budget were "one-sided" and not reflective of the wider community.

He was speaking on BBC NI's The View.

The St Helens North MP said the government has a duty to address the situation.

"There aren't any Irish nationalist voices in the chamber and that is reflected in the debates we have had and if we move even closer to direct rule that will be reflected even further and that, in my view, is not a tenable or sustainable position," Mr McGinn said.

"It's as much the responsibility of the British government to recognise that and act accordingly as it is anyone else.

"Just because Sinn Féin MPs don't take their seats here and there are no SDLP MPs doesn't mean that the British government can say therefore we aren't going to give a voice to nationalists.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr McGinn said there were no Irish nationalist voices at Westminster

"The government itself has a duty to be an honest broker and a neutral arbiter to reflect the concerns of the whole of the community in Northern Ireland and working in partnership with the Irish government it should seek to do that for nationalists."

But the Sinn Féin MLA and former MP Conor Murphy, who is also from Camlough, said his party has a strong mandate for its stance and denied there is any democratic deficit.

"We have influence here. We have influence in the southern state as well.

"We have influence in Europe and we continue to exercise that in the best interests of the community we represent," he said.

"I'm not overly concerned... and we spent the last ten months diligently trying to work with the DUP to put the institutions back together again and they know the basis in which that is required.

"They have not yet met that but we will continue to try to pursue that with both governments in the near future and with other parties as well.

"Because we want to see that happen but we will continue to represent our constituents' interests wherever we have the opportunity to do so."

Image copyright PAUL FAITH
Image caption The Northern Ireland Assembly has not sat since January

Sinn Féin have called for the British Irish Inter-Governmental conference to meet as soon as possible because of the situation.

It was set up under the Good Friday Agreement to take care of devolved matters during periods of suspension but has not met since February 2007.

The commentator Brian Feeney told the programme: "What Sinn Féin are trying to do now is to get the two governments to convene this and pass legislation which they say the British are responsible for passing such as an Irish language act."

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