Gerry Adams: Officer of the Crown

My congratulations to the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, the latest Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. He succeeds Michael Martin who accepted the post following his Commons retirement when he stepped down as Speaker.

Gerry Adams wants to become the TD (Irish MP) for Louth in the Republic of Ireland. He cannot do so while also a member of the Westminster parliament. So he decided to step down as the MP for West Belfast.

However, an MP cannot simply resign:

Constitutionally an MP has no power of voluntary resignation. Death, elevation to the peerage, dissolution or expulsion are the only causes (apart from legal disqualification) by which an MP’s seat can be vacated. Therefore an MP wishing to resign must disqualify him or herself. One cause for disqualification is holding a paid office of the Crown. They are the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds (Stoke, Desborough and Burnham) and the Manor of Northstead. An MP wishing to retire applies to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for one of the Offices that he or she retains.
(UK Parliament Website)

Gerry Adams did not apply for a Crown office. He simply wrote to the Speaker’s Office tendering his resignation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed him to the Manor of Northstead and (with some amusement) the Prime Minister told the Commons that Mr Adams had accepted the post. Not so, it seems. However, I understand he has not refused the appointment, as he had the right to do.

But was Mr Adams ever an MP in the first place? Sure, he was elected at almost every General Election since 1983. But Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats. Unsurprisingly, Gerry Adams has never sworn or affirmed his allegiance to the Queen.

That is why it is so ironic he should now serve as a Crown servant. But I wonder whether this “antiquated and quite bizarre” (Adams’ words) process should ever have been invoked in the first place?

We have long accepted Gerry Adams’ status as an MP. But since he has never never taken the oath of office, perhaps it was never fully true.


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