Direct elections to the European Parliament are held every 5 years. In these elections, EU citizens choose who will represent their interests in the European Parliament.
European Parliament elections take place within a 4-day period, normally in June, all over the European Union. Elections to the European Parliament in 2019 were held between 23 and 26 May 2019. The precise day of elections is set by each Member State.
Voting practices can vary between different EU countries. MEPs are elected according to national electoral systems, but these have to observe certain common provisions established by EU law. This infographic (pdf) gives an overview of voting rules in all EU states.
You can read more about the voting procedures in European elections in Ireland.
Who can become a Member of the European Parliament (MEP)?
To be eligible for election as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) you must:
- Be a citizen of Ireland or a resident EU citizen
- Be over 21 years of age and
- Not be disqualified from election to the Dáil
To stand for election, you must first be nominated for election (see below)
You are disqualified from being an MEP if you are:
- A candidate for election in another Member State
- A national of another Member State and you may not stand as a candidate for election in that Member State because of a law in that Member State
- A judge or the Comptroller and Auditor General
- A member of the Garda Siochána
- A whole-time member of the Defence Forces
- A civil servant and it does not specifically state in your contract of employment that you may be a member of the European Parliament
- A person of unsound mind
- Presently in prison serving a term greater than 6 months
If you are the Attorney General, the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad or a Minister of State and you are elected to the European Parliament, you will cease to hold your original post on the day you are elected to the European Parliament.
How are candidates nominated for election to the European Parliament?
A person may nominate themselves as a candidate or be nominated by one elector from the constituency. A candidate can only be nominated in one constituency.
To be nominated or nominate themselves for membership of the European Parliament, candidates must do one of the following:
- Produce a Certificate of Party Affiliation
- Produce 60 statutory declarations of assentors who are registered voters in the constituency (Form EP2A must be completed by assentors and witnessed by a Commissioner for Oaths, Peace Commissioner, Notary Public, member of the Garda Síochána or official of the registration authority)
- Pay a deposit of €1,800
To apply, the candidate must get a nomination paper from the returning officer for their constituency. You can get contact information for the returning officer for your constituency from the Franchise Section of your local authority.
The period for the nomination of candidates starts about 6 weeks before polling day and lasts 1 or 2 weeks depending on the nationality of the candidate.
Find out more about the rules for the nomination of candidates to the European Parliament in the detailed guide to How Ireland’s MEPs are elected (doc) from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
How are MEPs replaced?
There are no by-elections for the European Parliament. If an MEP dies or resigns, the vacancy is filled from a replacement list. A replacement list is a list of candidates eligible for election as members of the European Parliament.
Before the close of European election nominations, each registered political party or independent candidate may submit a list of replacement candidates to the returning officer.
If an MEP dies or resigns, the person who is at the top of his or her replacement list and is willing to become an MEP fills the vacancy.
You can find out more about how candidates from the European Parliament are replaced in the detailed guide to How Ireland’s MEPs are elected (doc) from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
Candidate spending and donation limits
The spending limit for a candidate in a European election is €230,000. A statement in writing of all election expenses must be submitted to the Standards in Public Offices Commission within 56 days of polling day.
An MEP or a candidate at a European election may not accept a donation greater than €1,000 in any year from the same donor. Candidates are not allowed to accept anonymous donations greater than €100 - any such donations must be surrendered to the Standards in Public Office Commission.
Read more about the rules for candidate spending and donations limits.