Northern Ireland news

Belfast City Council hears calls for people in NI to be allowed to vote in European elections

Dr Francis Costello

BELFAST City Council last night heard calls for people living in Northern Ireland to be allowed to vote in European Parliamentary elections.

Members heard from Irish-American businessman Dr Frances Costello and lawyer turned academic Ciaran White, who said they believe that the "democratic legitimacy" of people in the north should be enhanced.

The two men last night appeared before the council's Climate and City Resilience committee.

It comes just weeks after Dr Costello travelled to Dublin where he handed delivered a letter to the Taoiseach's office urging him to allow northerners to vote in European elections.

Dr Costello and Mr White, a senior law lecturer at Ulster University, believe enabling people in Northern Ireland to elect MEPs would "give real meaning" to Micheál Martin's concept of a 'Shared Island'.

The pair have previously lobbied European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic and Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council, on the issue.

According to Dr Costello and Mr White, EU voting rights for third country nationals is a matter "solely within the competence of member states - such as Ireland".

They argue that a member state can accord EU parliamentary voting rights to its own citizens living outside its territory.

Speaking ahead of last night's council committee meeting, Dr Costello said "we want to give people in the north a voice".

"This is not a nationalist issue, it is not a unionist issue, it is an issue for all citizens," he said.

"In light of what we have seen with the Assembly not being restored, maybe looking at six months, maybe longer, there is a lot of uncertainty. There is compelling evidence of filling this democratic deficit all the more."

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