THE shock of Brexit and all that came with it will lead to greater engagement from the public in the upcoming European Parliament elections, according to one of the candidates for Ireland South.
Labour’s Ireland South MEP candidate Sheila Nunan is one of 23 in the region.
“There’s a big field of candidates,” said Ms Nunan. “That’ll make for a very exciting election.”
Since 2016, Brexit has dominated headlines across the UK and here in Ireland with uncertainty over exit dates and timelines.
The issue has now been delayed until October 31 after originally being scheduled for March.
If the UK has not left the EU by the time of the elections on May 24, there will be four seats up for grabs in Ireland South and Midlands North west, and three in Dublin.
Ireland had been allocated two extra seats in the European Parliament because of Brexit, with one each going to Ireland South and Dublin.
“We’re confident that people are more engaged because of Brexit,” said Ms Nunan, former General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“Hopefully, there is a higher level of interest because Irish people like Europe and I think at the end of the day, they will want to see European parliamentarians that will fight the corner for Europe.
“We’re not looking to leave, we’re looking to make Europe work a bit better for us. I think people have been shocked at what they’ve seen going on in the Brexit debate, it will make them focus on what we want from our TDs in Europe so to speak.
“I think it will be great that there will be this level of interest so maybe that’s a small silver lining of Brexit for the Irish electorate; that they will now be looking seriously at what we want out of Europe.”
The importance of being Brexit ready as a country has cross political divides, according to Ms Nunan.
“I think there is pretty much a consensus right across the political spectrum in terms of trying to make sure that people are Brexit ready,” she said. “I think the government are very clear about the backstop position.
“I think that there is undoubtedly, from what I’m hearing in the constituency, a range of anxiety particularly from people in the farming sector and small business sector, people who are relying on supply chains,”
“They’re breathing a sigh of relief in the short term and everybody is living with a degree of hope that it won’t be a hard Brexit.”