Interesting statement from the SDLP’s South Belfast MP Alisdair McDonnell as he and his colleagues took up their Westminster seats today.
“I want to be clear. No SDLP MP is taking an oath. What we are taking is an affirmation. It is, as de Valera said, an empty formula. It would be wrong for us to put an empty formula ahead of the needs of the people who elect us – especially at a time when our institutions are suspended and Westminster is the only place where we can hold the Direct Rulers to account.
“Even with a Labour majority of 161 in the last Parliament, there were a number of close votes – on issues that really mattered like top-up fees and the war in Iraq. In this Parliament, where Tony Blair has only a 66 seat majority, there will be tight votes far more often. It would be madness for us not to be in the House of Commons when our votes could decide what happens. It would be even worse if we were to stand by and let the DUP be the only real voice to represent the people of the North.