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5 September 2018

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Voting Rights for All - report calls for EU seats for North

"The proposal to retain the right of representation in the European Parliament for Irish citizens resident in the north is an attempt to hold the State to the values its constitution proclaims." - independent legal report

The Irish government should create a new constituency and allocated its two additional European Parliament seats to the north to ensure the democratic rights of all Irish citizens are upheld, a newly published independent legal opinion has said. 

The report, which was launched today by Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson was commissioned by the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament and authored by barrister Mark Bassett. 

It finds that continued representation in the European Parliament for Irish citizens in the north is legally and constitutionally possible and only requires the political will of the Irish government to make it happen. 

The report was launched following Sinn Féin's strategy and planning days held in Cavan earlier this week. 

In the legal opinion, barrister Mark Bassett writes that allocating the two additional seats the 26 Counties will receive post Brexit to the north is in line with the Irish constitution. 

"The proposal to retain the right of representation in the European Parliament for Irish citizens resident in the north is an attempt to hold the State to the values its constitution proclaims," the report states. 

It also says that to allow the denial of rights to Irish citizens would go against the fundamental views of the state. 

"It is surely anathema to any form of republican democracy to leave fellow citizens without a voice in the decisions that affect them," it said. 

Mary Lou McDonald discussing the legal report with Martina Anderson.

Launching the report today, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said retaining a voice in the European Parliament is vital to the people of the north who will be worst hit by the Tory Brexit. 

"Today we launched an independent legal opinion that demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is both legally possible and permissible. The excellent work done by Barrister Mark Bassett covers EU and Irish law and is unambiguous - with political will, this can be done," she said. 

Martina Anderson said that senior figures in the EU, as well as leading representatives from both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have already indicated support for the proposal. 

"The European Parliament emphatically endorsed a resolution calling for democratic and social rights to be upheld in the north post-Brexit. The Parliament’s Coordinator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt supports continued representation for the north, as does the Fianna Fáil leader and Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly believes it is worth considering," she explained. 

Sinn Féin recently made a submission to the Constitutional Commission set up to examine the boundaries of European Parliament constituencies which called for the creation of a new constituency in the north and Martina Anderson explained this legal opinion reinforces that submission. 

 The Sinn Féin MEP made a direct appeal to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to uphold the rights of Irish citizens in the north. 

“An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated that the people of the north will never again be left behind by an Irish government. This is the first real test of those words. There are a number of regions and territories across Europe that offer flexible and imaginative solutions to ensure citizens maintain their voting rights, it’s time Ireland did likewise. So now it's over to An Taoiseach. 

“2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in the north. Brexit threatens many hard-won rights and protections that we in Sinn Féin will continue to fight to uphold. If the Irish government is serious about joining us in this fight, then they can allocate these two new seats to the north," she said. 

Liadh Ní Riada and Mary Lou McDonald at the launch.

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