Sinn Fein has accused the Taoiseach of leaving behind Irish citizens from Northern Ireland by not allowing them to vote in European elections post-Brexit.
MEP Martina Anderson said the Irish government could change its electoral rules with the “flick of a pen” to enable people north of the border to vote in future European parliament polls.
Mrs Anderson said more than 20 other member states allowed citizens residing outside their jurisdictions to vote.
“The Irish government are one of the few member states who deprive their nationals from the right to vote who don’t reside in the member states – 22 other member states do this,” she said.
“The Irish government could do this at the flick of a pen if they so wanted.”
The Sinn Fein Euro MP, in an interview with RTE One’s The Week In Politics, referred to a vow by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last year that he would not leave behind Northern Ireland-based Irish citizens in the Brexit process.
“What we heard today is that the Irish government intends to leave the people of the north behind and there’s going to be a democratic deficit and it’s going to be the first right removed from people in the north of Ireland who are Irish citizens under EU Law,” she said.
Mrs Anderson added: “It’s not in the gift of the Irish government, or the British government for that matter, to remove a fundamental right from the people of the north.”
The Irish Republic is getting two additional MEPs when the UK leaves Brexit – bringing its total representation to 13 – while Northern Ireland will lose its three seats in the European parliament.
Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee confirmed the two seats would represent areas south of the border.
Also appearing on The Week In Politics, Mrs McEntee declined to be drawn on the Sinn Fein demand for the extension of voting rights north of the border
“What we know is that Ireland has received two additional MEPs on the basis and the fact that the UK is leaving, however they will not apply to Northern Ireland,” she said.
“What we do know is we have been fighting throughout these negotiations to ensure that people in Northern Ireland, whether they associate as being Irish or British or European, that they can continue to do that into the future and their rights will still be maintained and that has very much been part of this overall discussion.”
Mrs McEntee said the Irish government would seek to represent the interests of all Irish citizens in Ireland.
“We represent everybody on the island in the best way we can,” she said.