Two new MEPs set to become limbo candidates until after Brexit

After election extra MEPs in Ireland South and Dublin must wait to attend parliament

European Parliament building in Strasbourg. Photograph: AP/Christian Lutz

European Parliament building in Strasbourg. Photograph: AP/Christian Lutz

 

The two lowest polling candidates in the European Parliament elections in May will not take their seats until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, under plans approved by the Government.

Ireland was allotted two extra seats when the European Council decided in June to redistribute 27 of the 72 seats that will no longer be needed to represent UK interests.

The division was made on the basis that the UK would leave on March 29th. However, a decision by London to seek an extension in Brexit negotiations will leave Ireland’s extra candidates in limbo.

The European Parliament elections will be held at the end of May 2019 across Europe. Before elections can be held in Ireland, the Government must pass legislation to give effect to the changes.

Depending on what action London takes, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy will table amendments to the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019 currently before the Dáil.

If the UK has not left by the time the new parliament must meet, the last candidate elected in the Ireland South constituency and the last elected in Dublin will not take up their seats until the UK has left.

“As these constituencies were allocated the two additional seats in the review carried out by the Constituency Committee, it was deemed appropriate that they would be identified as the seats that would not be taken up until the UK has left the EU,” the department said.

Details around whether these candidates will get paid have still to be worked out, and it is likely that the Government will defer the matter to the European Commission for a decision.

Ireland’s extra seats were shared out between Ireland South and Dublin by European Parliament Constituency Commission, which recommended that Dublin should grow to a four-seater.

In addition, Ireland South, which will now be a five-seater, will expand to take in Laois and Offaly. The Midlands North West constituency remains a four-seater.

The prospect of people in Northern Ireland being able to vote in European Elections has also been ruled out, despite Sinn Féin’s calls that one of Ireland’s extra seats should be used to represent them.

But the Department said on Tuesday that “under European law, only citizens of the union are entitled to vote and stand for election in European Parliament elections.

“This means that when the United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union, British citizens resident in the State will no longer have a right to vote at, or stand as candidates in, elections to the European Parliament held in Ireland.”