Iain Dale wrote a long post yesterday morning criticising the decision to allow a Sinn Féin member of the UK Youth Parliament to speak in the House of Commons chamber. All the way through reading it, I assumed that Iain must be one of those Tory diehards who take the (misguided, but perfectly legitimate) view that the compromises made with Republicans during the peace process went too far. And yet he actually draws his remarks to a close by declaring - "I applaud the peace process. It is remarkable what has been achieved on both sides of the political divide."
So it's a mystery. Here are a few points on which I don't think Iain's logic stands up to much scrutiny at all -
1) He says that Sinn Féin MPs should not be allowed to speak in the chamber unless they are prepared to take the oath. But this young man is not a Sinn Féin MP (duh). Moreover, the session was self-evidently not an official meeting of parliament, and thus presumably none of the participants were required to swear allegiance to the Queen as a condition of taking part.
2) He refers to how sickening it is that someone who "clearly" sympathises with those who murdered Tory MP Ian Gow twenty years ago was allowed to speak from the benches where Gow sat. Now, there is no doubting the enormous hurt that has been caused by welcoming unrepentant killers into the political fold - but for someone who believes in the Belfast Agreement, as Iain claims to, why does it appear to be so much worse if it happens in London, rather than in Northern Ireland itself? Sinn Féin's participation in both the Assembly and the Executive was an integral part of the settlement, and the families of victims have long since had to try to reconcile themselves to the likes of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly holding executive power in their part of the world. The issue of whether a member of what is effectively a 'mock' parliament should be allowed to open his mouth seems absurdly trivial by comparison.
It's also worth pointing out that even at the height of the Troubles, there was actually nothing to stop Sinn Féin MPs speaking from the Commons benches if they so chose. Even if they had refused to take the oath, they could have participated in the first session of each parliament when the Speaker is elected - that takes place before the oath is administered to anyone.
3) Where Iain really seems to lose the plot is over the fact that the Sinn Féin representative planned to speak in Irish. Why should this even be an issue at all? If it's because of the rule that proceedings in the Commons should be in English, well, once again, these were not Commons proceedings. So once we eliminate that as the reason, what is there left? Perhaps Iain finds the Irish language itself offensive for some reason? Does he imagine it's some kind of 'terrorist tongue'?