At a full meeting of the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, held in the Grange Omagh on Tuesday night, a motion was passed calling on the Irish Government to recognise the right of “citizens in the north to vote for candidates” in European elections.

The motion, proposed by Sinn Fein, also called for the Irish government to allocate additional European Parliament seats to “the north of Ireland”. The motion asked that the Council “acknowledges the commitments made in the Brexit negotiations (both the Joint Report and the Draft Agreement) where Irish/EU citizens in the north of Ireland will continue to enjoy, exercise and have access to rights, opportunities and benefits as EU citizens.”

The motion met with stern opposition from unionist parties but with SDLP voting in favour it passed by a comfortable margin.

Proposing the motion, Councillor Brian McCaffrey, Sinn Fein, stated:

“Sinn Féin believes that the citizens of the six counties of the north should continue to have representation in the European Parliament post-Brexit… this can be achieved via the two extra seats that are due to be allocated to the Irish State… the north should be a dedicated constituency for the purposes of the election of the two MEPs.”

Councillor McCaffrey went on to say:

“The people of the north voted to remain in the EU. They did so because it is in their best interests politically and economically.”

The DUP argued that Sinn Fein could not accept the result of the referendum with Councillor Mark Buchanan stating that Sinn Fein had “resorted to grandstanding and stunts.”

“The reality is that the democratic decision to leave the European Union will be implemented in every region of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland,” Councillor Buchanan said before concluding:

“Sinn Fein may sense opportunity, but the Democratic Unionist Party is not in the business of undermining the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

Speaking in support of the motion the SDLP’s Paul Blake stated:

“The SDLP support this motion. We believe that the redrawing of the European Parliamentary constituencies to cover the island of Ireland post Brexit is required” he said before adding that his party had “called for voting rights for Irish Citizens in the North, such as for presidential elections, and we further support the rights of citizens in the North to vote for candidates for European Parliament.”

The UUP’s Alex Baird was against the motion with his opening remarks resulting in jeers from some in the chamber:

“Another month and another Brexit motion from Provisional Sinn Fein,” Councillor Baird said before calling into question Sinn Fein’s integrity.

“If Every word that party spoke on the issue was not dripping with insincerity and hypocrisy more people might take them at face value and believe that they have local people’s interests at heart. But of course they don’t , and we know they don’t.”

Replying to Coucillor Baird, Councillor Doherty of Sinn Fein said that “the jocular approach by Councillor Baird is testament to his understanding of the issue,” before asserting that a no deal Brexit wold be devastating to the local economy and would hit everyone’s wages and that Councillor Bairs would then have to “explain that to the people of Fermanagh.”

The motion passed.