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Frances Fitzgerald, one of Ireland's 13 MEPs Alamy Stock Photo
eu elections

EU Parliament backs plan to give extra MEP seat to Ireland

The number of Irish MEPs could rise from 13 to 14 next year.

THE EU PARLIAMENT has adopted a proposal that would allocate an additional MEP seat to Ireland ahead of the 2024 European elections.

Under a proposal that still requires sign-off from the EU Council, Ireland’s number of MEPs would rise from 13 to 14 next year.

Austria, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Latvia would each also be allocated one additional seat, while Spain and the Netherlands would receive two.

Ireland’s MEP quotient increased from 11 to 13 in early 2020 when MEPs from the UK vacated their seats, leaving some to be allocated to other countries.

It was anticipated that the number would further rise before the next election to reflect changes in population levels.

The latest Census figures showed that the population stood at 5.1 million in April 2022, an 8% increase since 2016 and the first time in 171 years that the number surpassed five million.

There was some speculation about whether an extra two seats could be given over to Ireland but one new seat was seen as the more likely scenario.

The proposal that the EU Parliament passed today- would increase the overall number of seats to 716, still short of the 751 who served before Brexit.

The European Council, which is made of leaders from member states, must adopt a decision by unanimity on the seat allocations for the changes to be enacted.

MEPs working on the proposal have called on the Council to proceed swiftly to give member states the time needed to make changes ahead of next year’s ballots.

Co-rapporteur Loránt Vincze, an MEP from Romania, said that “out of the numerous proposals for seat distribution presented both in Committee and Plenary, Parliament today maintained the initial proposal we submitted with my co-rapporteur colleague”.

“The solution is a balanced one and the least intrusive in the existing balance in citizen representation,” Vincze said.

“It only adds the least amount of seats needed to comply with a strict interpretation of the degressive proportionality principle from the Treaties and only where these are objectively justified without resorting to cuts in case of any country. I am confident it has a high likelihood of meeting the European Council’s unanimous approval.”

Fellow co-rapporteur Sandro Gozi of France described it as an “important step towards a fairer Europe”.

“Parliament’s composition goes hand in hand with the new European electoral law. Both are key to achieving elections in 2024 that are both more European and more representative,” Gozi said.

“We urge the Council to accelerate negotiations, with a view to allocating 28 transnational seats to a pan-European constituency, and hope that the final decision, which will need our consent, will better take into account demographic developments, and in a more proportional way.”

Currently, there are three Irish constituencies in EU elections: Dublin, Midlands-North-West (Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, and Westmeath) and the South (Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, and Wicklow).

The constituencies have shifted somewhat over the years, with MEPs originally spread across four constituencies from the 1970s until 2009 when the system changed to the current three. More recent adjustments have included moving Clare, Laois and Offaly into the South.

The Electoral Commission is currently conducting a review of the voting boundaries for both Dáil and European elections.

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