‘Cold storage’ for two Irish MEPs elected to European Parliament due to Brexit

When Brexit is finalised Ireland will gain two extra seats, one in Dublin and the second in Ireland South

John Paul Phelan: “these are completely uncharted waters”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

John Paul Phelan: “these are completely uncharted waters”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The last two politicians to be elected in to the European Parliament in May will go into “cold storage” until the UK’s departure from the EU is finalised, Minister of State John Paul Phelan has confirmed.

If a TD or Senator is one of the last two Irish MEPs elected they will continue to hold their existing Oireachtas position until Brexit is resolved, following amendments to the dual mandate.

Mr Phelan, who is Minister of State for Local Government, said “we cannot designate for people who are privately employed”.

In Ireland MEPs are designated elected once counting of votes is completed, but in other jurisdictions they are deemed elected at the first sitting of the new parliament.

Mr Phelan was speaking during debate on the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill to prepare for changes to parliamentary numbers following the UK decision to leave the EU.

The UK currently has 73 MEPs, and agreement has been reached that when Brexit is finalised, 46 of those seats will be held in storage for potential future enlargement of the EU.

The remaining 27 seats will be redistributed among 14 EU states, and Ireland, which currently has 11 MEPs, will gain two extra seats – one in Dublin and the second in Ireland South.

Mr Phelan acknowledged that “these are completely uncharted waters” when asked by Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan about enfranchisement and allocation of the seats to these two constituencies and not the third constituency of Midlands North West.

On its head

He said the boundary committee did not recommend a 13-seat national constituency which would have turned the electoral system “completely on its head”.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin asked if those MEPs would be paid, if they would get offices and if they could attend the parliament.

He also expressed concern that an MEP might launch a legal challenge if they were subject to “a lengthy period of secondary status”.

Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien asked about the impact of an extension of article 50 or the possibility of a second referendum.

The Minister said “the question of the status of the cold storage MEPs is ultimately a matter for the European Parliament” but they expected an answer before the election because it affects 14 member states, not just Ireland.