ic NorthernIreland - Adams Is Accused Of Abusing Human Rights

Adams Is Accused Of Abusing Human Rights
Jan 30 2004


SINN FEIN leader Gerry Adams was accused in court yesterday of abusing the human rights of people in the loyalist Shankill area of his West Belfast constitutency by refusing to take his seat at Westminster.

The claim was made by a lawyer for Frank McCoubrey, an independent unionist councillor in the Shankill, who applied for leave to seek a judicial review of the MP's decision not to attend Parliament.

Before going into the High Court, Mr McCoubrey said the Shankill was one of the most deprived areas in the United Kingdom with mass unemployment, poverty, crime and low standards of education.

"By refusing to take his seat and in Parliament, Mr Adams is deliberately failing the people," said Mr McCoubrey.

His lawyer, John O'Hara, QC, conceded at the outset that for the application to succeed under human rights legislation he had to establish that the MP was a "public authority."

Mr O'Hara said Mr McCoubrey did not expect Mr Adams to support his unionist stance but he did expect him to intervene and do what he could on a non-party political basis in social and economic matters.

"Sinn Fein MPs at Westminster have been provided with facilities, presumably to fulfil a public function, but Mr Adams is declining to exercise that function," he said.

"The result is that there is a section of the electorate which is frustrated and uprepresented."

John Larkin, QC, for Mr Adams who was not in court, said it was impossible to see how he could regarded as a "public authority."

"But if he is, it could only be in regard to proceedings in Parliament and he doesn't sit there."

Mr Larkin described as a "joke" the addresses of some of the 2,025 people who had signed a petition claiming that their MP had abandoned them. He said the addresses included a Pigeon Club and Blues Club.

Mr Adams and the four other Sinn Fein MPs are not allowed to take their seats because they refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Mr Larkin said the oath was offensive to Mr Adams and it was Sinn Fein policy to abstain from attending Westminster.

Mr Justice Girvan asked: "If the oath was taken away would Mr Adams still refuse to sit?"

Mr Larkin replied: "That is a very detailed political question and I do not have instructions in that regard."

Judgment was reserved. Outside the court, Mr Mc-Coubrey said he thought the case had gone "very well."

"No matter what the outcome my opinion will not change," he said.

"We have an MP who is abusing my rights and those of the people of the Shankill by not taking his seat in the House of Commons."

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