'EU election votes may have to be counted twice due to Brexit' - Leo Varadkar
Votes in Ireland's upcoming European Parliament elections may have to be counted twice because of Brexit. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged that the confusion over Brexit may now have a major impact on Ireland's European Parliament elections on May 24 - and the number of Irish MEPs ultimately elected.
Constituencies such as Dublin and Ireland South (Munster and south Leinster) were scheduled to gain a seat because of the UK leaving the EU.
However, because the Brexit talks have stalled, the UK - if a withdrawal agreement is not ratified over the coming weeks - may have to contest its own European Parliament elections in May.
This will ensure that while the UK runs European Parliament elections the Conservative Government vowed never to hold, other EU countries which were due to gain European Parliament seats will not get them until the UK formally departs.
The Taoiseach said Ireland may now have to provide for both potential electoral eventualities.
"What we might have to do on the day of the count is count the votes twice," he said.
"Once as though (for instance) it might be a five seat (constituency) and one as if it were a four seat (constituency)."
Such double counting will significantly lengthen the European Parliament constituency counts in Ireland next May.
Mr Varadkar, speaking at the Irish Distillers facility in Midleton, Co Cork, said the Brexit situation has implications for all Irish political parties.
"At the moment Fine Gael has four seats - our ambition is to hold those four seats."
"There are extra seats to make some gains. What we (FG) are going to have to do in both Ireland South and in Dublin, in Dublin it might be a three seat or a four seat depending on whether the UK stays or not, in Ireland South which is Munster and south Leinster, it might be a five seat or a four seat."
The double counting of votes raises the possibility of candidates who narrowly fail to secure the final constituency seat in a 'no Brexit'
scenario later securing a European Parliament berth once an EU exit from the EU is achieved.
"I think these European Parliament elections are the most important in a generation - probably the most important since the European Parliament was founded," Mr Varadkar said.
"Big things happen in the European Parliament. It is where the Brexit agreement has to be ratified - not just in Westminster. It is where any future trade agreement with the UK will have to be ratified."
"It is where so many things are happening around reform - for instance the next European budget, climate action, employment rights - it really is a parliament with a lot of power now."