Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland 'should be able to elect MEPs'

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic during a visit to Stormont last month. Picture by Peter Morrison, Press Association

NORTHERN Ireland should be able to elect representatives to the European Parliament to end a "democratic deficit" following Brexit, two leading campaigners have said.

Historian Dr Francis Costello and Ciaran White, a senior law lecturer at Ulster University, have written to Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission, asking that voting rights be restored.

The pair have campaigned on on post-Brexit voting rights for the north for several years.

The letter praised Mr Sefcovic for the "even-handed and sensible approach that you and your colleagues on the European Council have displayed in the proposed changes to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol".

"Indeed, the suggested revisions and overall outline for an agreement that includes insuring the unfettered entrance of medicines from Great Britain into Northern Ireland along with a more efficient approach to the inspection of agricultural goods, foodstuffs and other trade items coming into this jurisdiction are to be welcomed as genuine efforts to ease any tensions that are claimed to have disrupted overall life here for much of this year," it read.

The letter welcomed the European Council's willingness to engage with the British Government to ensure voices from the north are heard.

"However, we respectfully want to emphasise, as we have for the past four years to your predecessor and successive Irish Governments, that there is no better way to end the blatant democratic deficit that remains since Brexit, for all communities in Northern Ireland, than the restoration of their democratic right to elect representatives to the European Parliament," the letter read.

It highlighted threats from the DUP to collapse the Assembly "thereby interfering with what minimal say that body now has over the working of the Protocol currently at four year intervals".

The letter also reiterated the need for the Irish government to back EU voting rights for the electorate in Northern Ireland.

"Clearly there is no better way to build a genuine shared island of Ireland than by guaranteeing that all the citizens of this island have the same democratic right to help shape the decisions that affect them in Europe on central issues like the environment, justice, health care as well as economic and social development and key funding issues," the letter read.

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