Sinn Féin outlines bid to secure post-Brexit MEPs for the north
Sinn Féin has outlined its case for continued representation for Northern Ireland residents in the European Parliament.
The party advocates the allocation of two new MEPs' seats for the north in the Brussels and Strasbourg parliaments after Brexit.
The next European elections are scheduled to take place next spring, after the UK leaves the EU on March 31, with the north's three MEPs due to be made redundant.
However, in June, the European Council increased the Republic's allocation of MEPs from 11 to 13 as part of the redistribution of the UK's 27 seats, triggering a public consultation process.
In its submission to the Republic's Constituency Commission, Sinn Féin argues that continued representation in the European Parliament is in keeping with the commitment in last December's EU-UK Joint Report that there be no diminution of the rights of the north's citizens post-Brexit.
The party's paper cites Micheál Martin's remarks to The Irish News in January, when the Fianna Fáil leader said it was "conceivable" that people would be able to cast their vote in future EU elections at polling stations north of the border.
Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly is also quoted, saying in June this year that the idea of continued representation is "worth exploring".
Sinn Féin believes any future voting rights in European elections should not be restricted to Irish citizens in the north.
Speaking as she lodged her party's submission with the Constituency Commission, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said continued representation in the European Parliament for citizens in the north was "vital".
"We are not asking for voters in the south to sacrifice existing representation, merely help preserve that right for those who did not vote for Brexit but are now forced to accept the ramifications of others' shortsightedness," she said.
"Furthermore, this submission is merely a first step in a process – we are willing to work with the commission to tease out the idea of representation for the north, but we are here today to stand for EU citizens in the north and their rights which some would see stripped away."
Ms Anderson highlighted how a majority in the north voted to remain part of the EU.
"They see the value of EU membership and of being closer to Ireland and the EU than left at the tender mercies of Westminster alone," she said.
"British and Irish citizens from the north of Ireland deserve representation in the European Parliament and this is what we are proposing today."
Ms Anderson pointed to the example of Northern Cyprus, where Turkish citizens can vote for representatives in the European Parliament.