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Sinn Fein shrugs off possible unionist role in British government
February 5, 2015 / 3:58 PM / 3 years ago

Sinn Fein shrugs off possible unionist role in British government

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams speaks at an election rally in Dublin May 6, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams shrugged off the possibility of arch rivals the Democratic Unionist Party propping up a Conservative-led government following upcoming British elections, saying any unionist advantage would be temporary.

As the fourth-largest party in Britain’s lower house with eight seats, the DUP is seen as a potentially key player in coalition talks likely after the UK general election on May 7 which is set to be the most open in years.

If a DUP-backed government were seen to favor the mainly Protestant unionists, who wish to remain part of the UK, it could antagonize Northern Ireland’s mainly Catholic nationalist community and cause tensions in the DUP-Sinn Fein power-sharing government in Belfast.

“Destabilizing? Well we’ve just been through a war. These are passing things. Whether it happens or doesn’t remains to be seen, but what’s it for, a term of parliament?” Adams said in an interview with Reuters.

“The continuum of the trajectory on the island of Ireland is for cooperation, for integration, for working on issues of mutual consent across the border,” he said.

Adams led Sinn Fein in talks that produced the 1998 Good Friday agreement which ended three decades of sectarian killing in Northern Ireland and laid the groundwork for power-sharing government.

He has also championed Sinn Fein’s policy of abstaining from its five seats in the British parliament on the grounds that the party does not recognize its jurisdiction over Ireland.

“No... we are very, very clear on that issue,” he said when asked if a change of policy was possible.

“Leaving aside any point of principle we have on that issue, the fact is that increasingly the political center of gravity is on the island of Ireland,” he said.

The DUP has said it is not looking for a formal coalition with the Conservatives but that it might seek advantage for Northern Ireland if it holds the balance of power in the Westminster parliament.

Last April, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron held a reception for members of the DUP, fuelling speculation that he sees them as a possible ally.

Editing by Mike Peacock

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