Sinn MEP Martina Anderson clashed with Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly in Strabourg this week after the Derry woman claimed the Dublin Government was leaving “the people of the North behind”.
Mrs. Anderson told members of the European Parliament that last week’s EU Council decision to grant the United Kingdom a further Article 50 extension to allow it to either ratify its Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union or come up with an alternative was simply kicking the can down the road.
“Nothing has changed,” she said. “London violates the Good Friday Agreement; Dublin continues to leave the North behind.”
She continued: “Six more months of uncertainty as the British push back on what they agreed in December 2017.
“Their Brexit violates and involves stripping people of their rights, including the right to vote, a demand that was at the core of the civil rights movement.”
But Mrs. Anderson’s ire was not reserved solely for the London government. She also attacked the Fine Gael-led government in Dublin for not assigning one of the 73 UK MEP seats allocated to Ireland as a result of Brexit, to the North.
“So we are facing into an election that the Tories and the DUP did not want, an election that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil didn’t want the people of the North to vote in. So let’s send a clear message to London, Dublin and Brussels. Let’s pass judgement on this Brexit chaos, on this act of wanton political vandalism.
“All voters in Ireland, by electing Sinn Féin MEPs, can also take a step towards a democratic way out of this Brexit mess, a step on the democratic pathway back into the EU for the North of Ireland and another sensible, rational, logical step towards Irish unity.”
Mr. Kelly, who heads the Fine Gael delegation at the European Parliament, took umrage at these comments.
The former GAA President said: “I don’t normally take issue with colleagues. In fact this is only the second blue card [a means of interrupting proceedings to ask a question in Brussels or Strasbourg] in ten years in parliament.
“When I hear Ms. Anderson saying Dublin has left the North behind, when everybody knows that the Irish Government did everything possible with our colleagues, Michel Barnier and others, how can she say that, when Sinn Féin themselves don’t take their seats anywhere?”
Mrs. Anderson replied: “I think you’ll find I’m taking my seat here. Sinn Féin has been very clear with regard to the position of the Dublin Government.
"The Irish Government is only one of few Member States here in the European Parliament that deprive their Irish right holders the right to vote in European elections when they don’t reside in their Member State.
"You would know Seán. You would know that in the North of Ireland that my mother, and people like my mother’s generation, that people like that, went to London with John Hume to fight for ‘One Man, One Vote’. Your party thought they could give us Mark Durkan: ‘One Man, No Vote’.
“You know nothing about democratic representation in the North.”