THE publication of referendum legislation on the extension of voting rights to the Irish abroad has been welcomed.
Released by the Irish Government on September 17, the bill outlines proposed voting rights following the referendum on the 39th Amendment of the Constitution, which is due to take place later this year.
If passed it would allow Irish citizens living outside the state to cast votes in presidential elections and would come into effect in time for the next presidential vote, which is due in 2025.
It would also bring Ireland into line with more than 30 other European countries which currently allow non-resident citizens to vote in elections.
Campaign groups Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA) and Votes for Irish Citizens in Northern Ireland (VICNI) welcomed the legislation this week.
“Ireland’s relationship with its citizens, be they across the border or overseas, is incredibly strong – but denying these citizens the right to vote once they step on a plane is out of line with this relationship,” said VICA member Alan Flanagan.
“While the vast majority of European countries and over a hundred democracies worldwide make provisions for their non-resident citizens to participate in elections, Ireland does not,” he added.
“This flies in the face of our country’s history, one where the ebb and flow and emigrants and immigrants is vital to our survival – our most cherished sons and daughters have struck out beyond the borders of the country, but a vital part of their citizenship is stripped when they leave.
“It’s not the norm, and this legislation represents a wonderful opportunity to address this issue and celebrate all Irish citizens in supporting and electing their President.”
British-based Sinead Fitzgerald is a member of Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad group.
“The publishing of the proposed amendment is great news,” she said.
“Though I live in the UK, Michael D Higgins is my president - and I want to contribute to the presidential visions of a shared future and inclusive citizenship.
“A Yes vote would honour the international role of Uachtarán na hÉireann and be a progressive step forwards that we take together”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD also welcomed the publication of the legislation, claiming the Irish in the North and across the world have waited too long already for such rights.
The Dublin Central TD said: “Irish citizens living in the north and amongst Ireland’s diaspora have long campaigned for voting rights, rights that are the norm in other jurisdictions.
“Now that the legislation has been published government must lend its full support to the campaign for a Yes vote and supports the Bill’s passage through the Dáil and Seanad.”
She added: “Voting rights for all citizens has been long fought for and hard won. This referendum will provide us all with an historic opportunity to recognise the contribution Irish citizens make to our islands society, economy and diverse culture.”