Sinn Fein has failed to send even one representative to the latest meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly – at the Brighton hotel where the IRA bombed Margaret Thatcher.
The Grand Hotel which hosts this week’s meeting of the parliamentary body was the scene of the 1984 bomb attack on Conservative Party leader and British PM Thatcher.
She survived the attack led by bomber Patrick Magee but five people died and many more were injured.
Padraig Mac Lochlainn, a Sinn Fein member of the Dublin parliament, has informed the Assembly that his party’s members are all needed for Presidential election duties in the Republic.
The Assembly has brought together members of the Irish and British Parliaments for the past 20 years.
The choice of the Brighton venue did cause some discomfort for the British Conservative party as well as Sinn Fein but they are represented at the Grand Hotel this week.
Lord John Cope, co-chair of the Assembly, was in the hotel when the bomb exploded. He said: “Obviously, all of us who were here have memories of that event. It was traumatic and you don’t forget things like that.
“I lost friends, but I don’t want to go into it. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, have to go to places where terrible things took place. Life has to go on.”
Irish co-chair Joe McHugh, a Fine Gael deputy, said: “There is a lot of symbolism around the choice of venues in Ireland and elsewhere. I would hope that this is a symbol of a terrible past, one that we don’t want to go down again.”
Lord Cope maintained that the Assembly remains a valuable opportunity for politicians from both sides of the Irish Sea to meet each other.
He also stated that the Assembly now concentrates less on Northern Ireland and more on the relationships between the islands.
McHugh added: “The current Eurozone crisis highlights the importance of Ireland’s relationship with Britain. It is important that we build on it.”