Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has sparked an Anglo-Irish row after barring Sinn Fein MPs from a party at the Commons to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Irish Home Rule Act.
The Daily Mail reports that Bercow agreed to host the reception at his Commons apartment next month, but changed his mind when he realized that five Sinn Fein MPs – Pat Doherty, Michelle Gildernew, Paul Maskey, Conor Murphy and Francie Molloy, who refuse to take up their seats at Westminster because of their Republican beliefs – were included on the guest list.
The Speaker said that he would not admit the MPs because they had failed “to respect the traditions of the Commons.”
Despite “intense lobbying” by Irish ambassador Daniel Mulhall and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, who urged him to reconsider his stance for the sake of the fragile peace process, Bercow refused to change his mind.
Organizers have now moved the event, to be held July 1, to the Irish Embassy in London.
An MP close to Bercow told the Daily Mail: "John was happy to hold the event as he has affection for the Irish people, but given their disrespectful stance there was no way the Sinn Fein MPs were going to be allowed to come. He said, 'No way.'
"The Irish Embassy was very pushy about it, demanding the event be held in Speaker’s House. And then Theresa Villiers waded in, saying it was important to maintain civil relations with both Dublin and Sinn Fein for the sake of the peace process. But John wasn’t having any of it."
A Commons spokesman said: "Mr Bercow felt that since the Sinn Fein MPs do not respect the traditions of the Commons, it would not have been appropriate to allow them into Speaker’s House.
"Previous Speakers have also held the same view."