North to miss out on post-Brexit MEPs as extra European Parliament seats go to the Republic
TWO additional European Parliament seats for Ireland have been earmarked for the Republic – scotching hopes that Northern Ireland would get MEP representation after Brexit.
The next European elections are scheduled to take place next spring, after the UK leaves the EU at the end of March, with the north's three MEPs due to be made redundant.
However, the Republic's allocation of MEPs will increase from 11 to 13 as part of the redistribution of the UK's 27 seats.
Nationalist parties and campaigners had hoped that the north would get continued representation in the European Parliament, which Sinn Féin argued was 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.
But following a report into the redistribution of the extra two seats, Fine Gael minister Eoghan Murphy plans to bring forward legislation that creates two new seats in the Dublin and South constituencies.
In the Seanad yesterday, Sinn Féin's Niall Ó Donnghaile said he was disappointed by the decision.
"The taoiseach made the commitment never to leave northern citizens behind again; yesterday saw him have the ideal opportunity to affirm that commitment, to ensure Irish and EU citizens in the six counties retained the most basic entitlement of any citizen, the right to elect democratic representation, yet disappointingly the government fell at the first hurdle in putting their words into action," he said.
"Just a few weeks ago over one thousand representatives of civic nationalism in the north, Irish citizens, wrote to the taoiseach pleading with him to remain steadfast in defence of our rights – I have no doubt that, like me, they will be bitterly disappointed at yesterday's regressive decision at cabinet."
Mr Ó Donnghaile called for the Dublin government to review the decision, saying there was no legal impediment to enfranchising Irish citizens in the north.
Irish-American businessman Frank Costello, who has written to Leo Varadkar in recent weeks urging him to back European Parliament representation for the north, said news of Mr Murphy's imminent legislation was "not ideal", however, he felt the effort to secure post-Brexit MEPs for the region was not lost.
"This can hopefully be built on in the months to come to the fullest extent for maintaining three seats and also ensuring the continued protection of the European court of Justice within those democratic and human rights under the Good Friday Agreement,'' he said.
Earlier this year, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told The Irish News it was "conceivable" that people would be able to cast their vote in future EU elections at polling stations north of the border.