Belfast Telegraph

DUP reject call to give Republic's new MEP seats to Northern Ireland

The DUP has rejected suggestions that two new Member of European Parliament (MEP) seats set to be allocated to the Republic of Ireland as a result of Brexit could be given to Northern Ireland.

Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament Sean Kelly said that the idea could be "worth exploring".

He said that the idea could work as the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the European Union (EU) Referendum.

However, he conceded that any such move would need the agreement of the UK and Irish Governments and Northern Ireland.

"It is worth exploring. But whether there would be agreement on it and if it would work in practice is a different matter. In principle, I don't see anything wrong with it," Mr Kelly said.

As a result of the United Kingdom leaving the EU 73 seats in the European Parliament will become vacant.

The EU is proposing to redistribute 27 seats (with two for the Irish Republic) while keeping 46 in reserve for countries that may join the EU in the future.

In response to Mr Kelly's comments DUP MEP Diane Dodds said the idea was a non-starter as the UK had voted as a nation to leave the EU.

“Irrespective of how regions voted in the UK referendum, the nation voted to leave the EU. The “respect for the Good Friday Agreement in all it’s parts” that many Members have enthusiastically proclaimed since the UK’s referendum includes respect for the principle of consent – that Northern Ireland remains undeniably and solely subject to the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. We will leave the EU at the same time as the rest of our United Kingdom," she said.

"Individuals from Northern Ireland can of course claim an Irish passport, and maintain EU citizenship as a result. However, those rights sit with the individual, and post-Brexit they do not confer any further rights than is appropriate to any EU citizen resident within a third country. EU treaties do not entitle non-residents to voting rights in European elections.

"These two extra seats would be allocated to the Republic of Ireland as a member state of the EU. They therefore ought to be allocated under the system and jurisdiction of the Member State to represent the people within that state."

Mrs Dodds said that if the Irish Government signed up to any such proposal they would be breaking previously made agreements.

"Significantly, any attempt by an Irish Government to allow for the election of representatives to speak on behalf of Northern Ireland would renege upon commitments given as part of the Northern Ireland peace process," the MEP said.

"In particular it would effectively reverse the decision of the Irish people to rightly give up the false claim to jurisdiction over UK territory that had previously made up parts 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution

"Further, elected representatives from one state claiming to speak on behalf of the territory of another would set a dangerous precedent for other Member States with regions home to significant minorities who associate themselves culturally or ethnically with another nation. ”

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