Senator Higgins on European Parliament Bill: "We should not be taking any step backwards"

European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019
European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019

Today, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins proposed amendments to the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill to ensure that British citizens resident in Ireland and already on the electoral register would continue to be able to vote in the European Parliament elections after Brexit. 

Speaking at the conclusion of the debate, Senator Higgins said, “I am disappointed that the Minister did not accept my amendments which sought to ensure those UK citizens currently resident and on the register would remain eligible to vote in future European Parliament elections. It is regrettable that the Government did not take this opportunity to send a signal of inclusion.”

In the debate Senator Higgins referred to the 2006 European Court of Justice ruling on Kingdom of Spain versus the United Kingdom which provides potential legal precedent for those who are resident but not citizens of EU states to vote in European Parliament elections under particular circumstances. This case led to citizens of commonwealth countries resident in the UK being granted the right to vote in the European Parliament elections. Senator Higgins said, “As a member of the Votáil100 committee, I celebrated the centenary of women’s suffrage, as a member of the Seanad Reform Committee I have fought  to extend the franchise for this House, and like many others, I have also called for a vote for our younger citizens. We should be constantly seeking to extend the franchise not narrow it. We should not be taking any step backwards . Participation in democracy is not simply important for the individual but it is of benefit to us all.”
Senator Higgins added “ I had also requested that the Minister, would at least agree to conduct a review of the legislation in coming years before the next EP election, and while he did not agree to that today it’s something I urge him to consider”.

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