Of Stewards and Barons
There is understandable amusement at the constitutional contortions involved in Gerry Adams resignation from the UK House of Commons so that he can concentrate on his candidacy for Louth in the 2011 general election. But before presuming that there is something uniquely republican about the problems created by the resignation procedure, consider the list of 1980s holders of the titles of stewards of the Chiltern Hundreds and Northstead Manor.
Look at 1985. This is when all the Unionist MPs resigned — as it was then freely described in the media — to protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (an outrage that they shared, although not for the same reason, with Fianna Fail). Led by James Molyneaux — now a real Baron, unlike Gerry Adams — and Ian Paisley (Baron Bannside), they resigned to … to run again for their old seats in by-elections! So if we’re having a laugh at the need to take these procedures seriously, note that the title would have been held for just a few minutes by each of the Unionist MPs to process their resignations, whereupon they set about disregarding their office of profit under the Crown. Hopefully the subjects of the stewardships were not insulted by the revolving door nature of their 1985 overlords.
Final footnote: Jim Nicholson, who resigned as MP, lost his seat to Seamus Mallon when he ran again. But there’s no indication that the title curses subsequent election prospects.