Wednesday, 6 February 2019
European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage
We can have a debate about Stormont but this is about a serious proposition to ensure that Irish citizens in the North of Ireland, no matter what their political opinion, have some representation. I would have thought that is something Fianna Fáil would have at least liked to discuss as opposed to dismissing it in order to score political points but that is its own business.
The legal opinion also states, "The Constitution imposes no restrictions on the ability of the State to extend the franchise for EP election to Irish citizens resident in Northern Ireland." It is constitutionally permissible and possible, whether we want to do it or not is a secondary issue. We would argue, and the legal opinion argues, that it would be consistent with the principles of Bunreacht na hÉireann, particularly the amendments made post the Good Friday Agreement, and that it would be consistent with the current citizenship regime. Then there is a series of more detailed points.
It is not, contrary to Deputy Cassells's suggestion, a populist move, it is a very serious and credible proposal which we think all the parties in this House should have considered. If I was an SDLP, Sinn Féin or Alliance Party voter in the North I would be a bit disappointed with the way Deputy Cassells has presented this because all of those people are telling all of us, and the Government knows this because it is engaging very extensively with Northern public opinion, that the worst case scenario for people in the North is to have no representation.