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It was an Irish voice, that of Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy, who spoke up in today's brief opening plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to decry the absence of three Catalan voices: Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín, elected as MEPs but vetoed by Spanish authorities with, for the moment at least, the complicity of the European Union institutions. During today's short session to constitute the newly-elected European chamber, the European United Left representative demanded the floor to send a powerful message of criticism to acting parliamentary president Antonio Tajani. Outside, 10,000 protesters who had travelled hundreds of kilometres did exactly the same.

Visibly indignant, Carthy said that the pro-independence Catalan leaders had not been allowed to enter the EU Parliament and take their seats because of the decision of one member state and demanded that "the voices of the people of Catalonia must be heard", while at his side, a colleague held up a photo of Carles Puigdemont. Matt Carthy denounced to president Tajani, who presided over Tuesday's session, that the decision to close the door to Puigdemont, Junqueras and Comín "undermines the credibility of this house ", which is entrusted with the mission of "standing up for democracy and human rights ".

As the Irish MEP explained to the press later: "Tajani opened his remarks by describing the European Parliament as the house of democracy, the only EU institution that is directly elected by the people. If that is the case, the votes of all the people must be equal and there cannot be administrative or judicial barriers put in place to prevent the will of the people from being recognised," he said. "Two million Catalan people voted for their MEPs and they are as entitled to have representation in this house as those who voted for me or anyone else here."

Carthy, who also forms part of the EU-Catalonia Dialogue Platform, said that any MEP who fails to stand up for the rights of those Catalan voters "undermines our own ability to talk about democracy, human rights and rule of law anywhere else in the world.". For the Irish MEP, the "silence" of all EU leaders on the matter is "deafening." "If it were in South America or the Middle East, we would be hearing the lectures from European leaders," he lamented. If such "administrative loopholes" were used to block elected MPs in other parts of the world, EU leaders "would be shouting from the rooftops."

According to him, the EU is doing a "huge disservice to the people of Europe" because it is making it "impossible" for us to try and build peace and democracy in other parts of the world. "People see us clearly as hypocrites," he warned.

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