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Update on European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019 following today’s cabinet meeting

Published on Tuesday, 19 Feb 2019
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  • European Parliament elections will be held at the end of May 2019 across Europe. Before elections can be held in Ireland, it is necessary to enact legislation to give effect to some process changes identified by the European Council but also to provide for challenges that may arise due to Brexit. The European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019 will deal with these issues; it was published on 4 February 2019 and passed second stage in the Dáil on 6 February. The Government, today (19 February), discussed how some of the more complex issues that are not already included in the Bill should be dealt with and will propose some amendments to the Bill at the next legislative stage – Committee Stage – to give effect to those policy decisions.

European Council Decisions

  • In summer 2018, a European Council Decision provided for the distribution of 27 seats in the European Parliament to existing member States following the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. In the case of Ireland, the number of representatives to be elected will increase to 13 (up from 11) for the next parliamentary term.

  • Following the EU Council decision, a Constituency Committee was established in Ireland to make recommendations for constituencies for the election of 13 members to the European Parliament in May 2019.
  • The Committee recommended that, for the purposes of elections to the European Parliament, Ireland should be divided into 3 constituencies (no change from current position) in the following configuration –

      - a four seat Dublin constituency (an increase of 1 seat on current position),

      - a five seat South constituency (an increase of 1 seat on current position),

      - a 4 seat Midlands-North-West constituency (no change on current position).

  • The Committee also recommended a boundary change between the South constituency and the Midland-North-West constituency with counties Laois and Offaly transferring to the South constituency.

  • The European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019 provides for the implementation of the recommendations of the Constituency Committee 2018.

  • In addition, the Bill gives effect to a small number of technical  amendments to our European Parliament electoral code in order to implement certain requirements set out in another European Council Decision which reforms the European Union’s framework electoral law, e.g. a polling day order will be made at least 60 days in advance of the polling day (50 days at present); and the name of a European Political Party can be included on the ballot paper.

Impact of Brexit

  • The Bill has been prepared on the basis that the United Kingdom will withdraw from the European Union on 29 March 2019.

  • Committee Stage for the Bill will be scheduled shortly with a view to enacting the Bill as soon as possible in order to give clarity and certainty in good time before the European elections in May 2019, having particular regard to the UK withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019.

Additional 2 Seats

  • The EU Council Decision from last June provides for the scenario in which the United Kingdom has not left the European Union before the start of the 2019-2024 parliamentary term.  In such circumstances, the number of MEPs taking up office will be the same as for the current Parliament (i.e. 11 in the case of Ireland) with the additional seats (2 in the case of Ireland) being taken up after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal becomes legally effective.

  • In order to be prepared for all scenarios the Minister for Housing Planning and Local Government intends to bring forward a number of amendments to the Bill at Committee Stage in the Dáil. Amendments will be brought forward by the Minister which will propose that, in the event that the UK has not left the EU by the start of the parliamentary term, the last candidate elected in the South constituency and the last candidate elected in the Dublin constituency will not take up their seats in the European Parliament until the UK has left.

  • As these constituencies were allocated the two additional seats in the review carried out by the Constituency Committee, it was deemed appropriate that they would be identified as the seats that would not be taken up until the UK has left the EU.

Voting Rights for British Citizens at European elections

  • Under European law, only citizens of the Union are entitled to vote and stand for election in European Parliament elections.  

  • This means that when the United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union, British citizens resident in the State will no longer have a right to vote at, or stand as candidates in, elections to the European Parliament held in Ireland. 

  •  Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, British citizens resident in Ireland will retain the right to vote at general elections and the right to vote and stand at local elections.

  • It should also be noted that British citizens resident in Ireland are not entitled to vote in a referendum or presidential elections and there are no proposals to change this.

 

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