Northern Ireland, the EU and the Dáil
Sir, – Now that Britain has left the EU, one of the immediate effects is that Northern Ireland has lost its representation in the European Parliament. However, on a recent visit to Belfast, Michel Barnier said: “Whilst Northern Ireland will no longer be part of the EU, people born and raised here that choose to be Irish citizens will still be EU citizens.”
That means NI will occupy its own parallel dimension where it will be constitutionally part of the UK but with some sort of special status within the EU and so anyone born there will have a permutation of citizenships to choose from. While those defining themselves as British may be content to be represented exclusively in Westminster, others claiming Irish/EU citizenship will be uniquely disadvantaged in having no voice in an EU national parliament.
The only possible remedy is that they are given a voice in the Oireachtas. That would amount to elected MPs being afforded speaking rights in the Dáil. Obviously NI representatives would not be able to vote on tax or expenditure measures, but there is no reason they cannot speak in debate or contribute to Dáil committees.
With the advent of Brexit, the political establishment south of the Border became exquisitely concerned about the lack of representation for nationalists voters at Westminster. However, that concern was not reflected by the large numbers that continued to vote for abstentionist candidates. Therefore, there is a large cohort in the North that do not want to be represented in Westminster but would actively want a voice in the Dáil. Additionally, there are voters who would welcome representation in both legislatures
It is a pity that the vociferous chorus that disapproved of the mandated absence of Northern representatives from the British parliament have fallen silent now that the North has been stripped of representation within the EU, against the will of its majority as expressed in the 2016 referendum.
Speaking rights in the Dáil are a poor substitute for full democratic representation, nonetheless a voice in Dublin could be more influential than a vote in Westminster.
But will anyone in this Republic advocate such rights for our friends in the North? – Yours, etc,