A Fine Gael MEP has indicated he would support Ireland’s two extra seats in the European Parliament going to Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Seán Kelly said the idea is "worth exploring" and something he has no difficulty with given that the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in the referendum two years ago.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg is voting today to redistribute the number parliament seats, including a measure to increase Ireland’s number of MEPs from 11 to 13.
. @FineGael MEP @SeanKellyMEP has indicated he would support Ireland’s two extra seats in the @Europarl_EN parliament going to Northern Ireland after Brexit. He says idea promoted by @sinnfeinireland MEPs such as @LNBDublin is "worth exploring" https://t.co/LHn64MN1zZ pic.twitter.com/li4g81JJKQ— Conor McMorrow (@ConorMcMorrow) June 13, 2018
The parliament is shrinking from 751 to 705 MEPs when the UK leaves the EU.
46 of the 73 UK seats will be put in reserve, with the other 27 distributed among the 14 EU countries that are currently slightly under-represented in the parliament.
Sinn Féin MEPs such as Liadh Ní Riada and Lynn Boylan have been calling for the two extra seats to go to Northern Ireland as it will be bereft of EU representation after Brexit.
Ms Ní Riada pointed out that 56% of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and they "have a right to be represented in Europe".
Ms Boylan said: "What we are calling for is that there will be no decrease in human rights in the North post-Brexit.
"Part of your human rights is that you have access to the democratic institutions so there absolutely has to be some way that those who live in the North would have access to those institutions and that is through their MEP."
Mr Kelly has given the plan his backing despite opposition to it within the Fine Gael party ranks.
The former GAA president said: "Personally I wouldn’t have any difficulty with it once it is worked out. But obviously you would have to get agreement from Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
"Definitely the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union. The citizens of Northern Ireland are all entitled to become citizens of Ireland if they so wish. That would mean they would automatically become citizens of the European Union as a result.
"So 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."
Last week his party colleague Brian Hayes questioned the practicalities of the plan as the entire UK will be leaving the EU in March next year.
Ms Boylan said: "Some of the British seats are being allocated to member states that are under-represented but the EU is also holding back a number of those seats for EU enlargement.
"What we would be saying is that at least two of those seats should go to the North. And in failing that we should be looking at the two extra seats that are coming to Ireland and have so way of facilitating it so that those people who have a vote in the North will have a democratic representation in the European Parliament post-Brexit."
The first European Parliament elections took place in 1979 when there were nine member states.
Forty years later, when the Elections take place from next May, they will see 27 member states elect 705 MEPs.