I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 6(3) of Electoral Act 1997
6. Section 6(3) of the Electoral Act 1997 is amended by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraphs (b) and (c):
"(b) There will be one national constituency for the Republic of Ireland in the election of representatives to the European Parliament.".".
My amendment is simple but significant. With Brexit approaching, the make-up of the European Parliament is due a shake-up, with the UK's 73 seats up for redistribution, either as extra seats for the other member states, or as transnational seats to be elected across the EU. Either way, change is coming, and we need to be ready for it. Last week, President Macron of France indicated that he would scrap France's regional approach to European elections and create a single national constituency. This would bring France in line with 22 of the 28 EU member states that have a simple national constituency. This leaves just Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Poland as the only member states that do not approach these elections with a single constituency.
Part 3 of the Electoral Act 1997 established the existing constituency commission and extends its oversight to reviewing the DáiI and European Parliament constituency boundaries after every census. Currently, Ireland has three constituencies for the election of members of the European Parliament, MEPs, the three seater of Dublin and two four seaters of south and north west. These constituencies are the smallest of any in the entire EU, apart from the national constituencies of Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus, and the small German speaking region of Belgium. They make little sense as regions, with Bray and Bantry sharing the South Constituency, for example.
The existing regional constituencies in large member states, such as France and Italy, are all larger than the entire combined population of Ireland. We are very far outside the mainstream on this issue already. This matters, for several reasons. First, the current constituencies lower the fairness and proportionality of our European election results. In the last election, for example, Fine Gael got 22.3% of the first preference vote, and 3 MEPs. Fianna Fáil got 22.3% of the vote, but merely one MEP, the Minister of State might be glad of that.