In the face of a hard Brexit and the ensuing economic firestorms, we’ve tended to forget that there are other things in life besides money. (Yes, Virginia, money makes the mare go, I know that, am anything but denying it.) When the civil rights movement was in full swing, it demanded an end to discrimination and gerrymander, and jobs allocated on a fair basis; but one of its key slogans was “One man (sic), one vote.” Let us not forget that when the May elections to the European parliament occur, since the UK will by then have dragged us against our wishes out of the EU, we will have no EU representation because we will have no one to vote for.
That’s a serious position to be in, if you’re hoping to have close ties with the EU, opportunities to emphasise the continuing absurdity of splitting Ireland and Ireland’s economy in two. So what to do? Must we just suck it up and soldier on? Or is there a possible answer to it all?
There is. When the UK leave the EU, 46 of its 73 EU seats will be redistributed to other EU states. Among these will be the south of Ireland, which will get two extra seats.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That it’d be nice if the south of Ireland demonstrated its solidarity with the north by assigning these two seats to the north, so that we could have continued representation in Europe?
It might be nice but it is highly unlikely. Because of EU regulations? Because of EU red tape? Because we’re part of the UK and therefore if the UK is out of the EU, part of it can’t be allocated EU seats? Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.
There’s one principal barrier to the south’s two extra EU seats coming north of the border, and that’s the south. If it wanted to, the south could allocate these to the north. Twenty-two of the twenty-eight EU states allow for its citizens who live outside the state to vote in EU elections. So there’s plenty of precedence. The Taioseach has said that the nationalists of the north will never again be left behind. This is a perfect opportunity to put that promise into practice. It would help to bind us to Europe and the south. It would make clear to the world that the north voted 56% in favour of staying in the EU. And it would allow us to exercise our right as Irish citizens.
Forty years on from one-man-one-vote, we’re faced with a latter-day denial of the same rights. Back then it was Britain who colluded in that denial. Now it’s our fellow-Irish in the south who are doing it to us.
Are you really the guardian of nationalists in the north, Leo? Or will you too stand idly by?