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Varadkar must keep his promise to the People of the North on EU Elections – Cullinane

3 December, 2018 - by David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane TD has this morning criticised the Irish government for failing its own test, saying that the proposal to exclude the people of the north from future EU elections goes against the Good Friday Agreement and an Taoiseach’s statement that they would not be left behind ever again.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“I am very concerned at the report in the Irish Times today that government is considering excluding the people of the north from future EU elections.

“The issue as to who votes in such elections is up to national governments. It is, therefore, a matter of Irish legislation and, as such, it is within the power of the Irish government to do something about it.

“The report says that legislative changes would be needed - as if this is a reason not to do anything about it.

“Brexit has thrown up a myriad of legislative and logistical issues; future EU representation in the north is one of them.

“It should not and cannot be ignored simply because it requires changing legislation. It should be pointed out that Brexit requires not only changing the law but drawing up entirely new treaties. 

“The report’s argument that changing the law is a barrier to changing the law, because it requires changing the law, is a facile and utterly patronising argument, nothing more than schoolboy nonsense.

“In August, my party colleague Martina Anderson MEP and I published Sinn Féin’s submission to the Constituency Committee which outlined practical ways to ensure that the people of the north retain their EU franchise.

“I am shocked to discover today that it was completely ignored as the Committee decided it was ‘outside of its terms of reference’. Questions need to be asked as to why that decision was taken.

“An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar previously stated that the people of the north never again will be left behind by an Irish government. 

“This is the first real test of those words.

“Citizenship must mean something. Every person in the north of Ireland has the right to EU citizenship and therefore the right to stand and vote in European elections. The European Parliament emphatically endorsed a resolution calling for democratic and social rights to be upheld in the north post-Brexit. 

“There are a number of regions and territories across Europe that offer flexible and imaginative solutions to ensure citizens maintain their voting rights; it is time Ireland did likewise. 

“No matter what shade of Brexit we face, the north will suffer. Border communities face increased division and people who cross the border to work and study face tremendous uncertainty.

“One thing that is guaranteed is that decisions made by the European Union will still affect everyday life in the north.

“It is vital, therefore, that the people of the north have their voices heard in the European Parliament, and it is within the remit of the Irish government to do so.

“This has to be done. 

“I call on the government to read and take on board our submission that was inexplicably rejected by the Constituency Committee.

“I ask an Taoiseach to consider the ways outlined in that submission to ensure that all the people of the north who currently have a right to vote in EU elections will retain that right through the allocation of the two extra EU seats that the Irish state will receive as a result of Brexit. 

“Leo Varadkar must keep to his word. The people of the north must not be left behind again.” 

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