Sinn Fein invites Conservative MPs to historic meeting in UK Parliament next week
- Conservative MPs have been invited to join
Sinn Feinleaders at a historic meeting in Parliament.
- Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill plan an evening briefing on Stormont and the protocol.
Sinn Fein is hosting a historic reception with Conservative MPs in the UK's Parliament next week, in what sources said was the first meeting of its kind they had ever known.
Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the party, and her deputy Michelle O'Neill, first minister designate of Northern Ireland, have invited all Tory parliamentarians to an evening briefing.
The attempted outreach is a major shift given that Sinn Fein's explicit mission is to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. The Tories, in full the Conservative and Unionist Party, are dedicated to preventing that.
O'Neill travelled to Scotland on Friday, where she met First Minister and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon.
The invitation, seen by Insider, says McDonald and O'Neill would "welcome the opportunity" to discuss the situation since Sinn Fein became the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time, pushing the Democratic Unionist Party (
The DUP since refused to re-enter power-sharing until "decisive action" is taken to scrap elements of the
The pair also want to discuss "recent announcements from the British Government", after Prime Minister
They are due to be joined by Conor Murphy MLA and Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard.
Sinn Fein has seven MPs, who sometimes work from their parliamentary offices, although the longstanding party policy is to abstain from sitting in the Commons.
One Tory MP said: "It is astonishing Sinn Fein are making an appearance in Parliament. I have never seen them in over a decade as they refuse to take their seats in the Chamber and represent their constituents."
"First time I've known it," said a pro-Brexit backbencher. "But it also comes across as being quite open… maybe a new reassuring tactic?"
MPs were "quite surprised" to have been invited, a former minister said, suggesting some colleagues would not attend out of long-held dislike for the party once linked with the IRA. "I suspect you will get quite a lot of One Nation Tories and not a lot of everyone else."
But the senior backbencher expressed optimism about the opportunity to engage at a critical moment for relations between the two sides.
"They have never really engaged with parliamentarians – particularly never had a meeting with Conservative MPs – but I think they have realised that the only people the government is listening to is the DUP. On everything," the MP said. "I think it's an attempt to set out their stall.
"We have got to start taking Sinn Fein seriously," the Tory added. "They are a serious force and if we ignore them, we are disregarding the views of thousands of British citizens because of who they vote for."
A Sinn Fein spokesperson confirmed the details of the meeting, as well as others with business and trade-union representatives.
"This follows meetings this week with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon," the spokesperson said.
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