THE TAOISEACH broke his promise to announce plans for letting the Irish abroad vote in elections at home because he was too “distracted” by scandals engulfing his Government, a campaigner has claimed.
Jennie McShannon, CEO of the Irish in Britain charity, said it was “disappointing” that the Government missed its self-imposed deadline this week.
Blaming the delay on the controversy surrounding Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who has faced mounting pressure after a number of scandals involving the garda, she said it was a shame the issue “is not on the agenda” in Ireland.
In November last year, the Constitutional Convention issued a report recommending reforms that would let the Irish abroad take part in Ireland’s Presidential elections.
The Irish Government was due to respond to that within four months under the rules it created when setting up the 100-person panel.
But it missed its own deadline last week, with a spokesperson for the Taoiseach saying the Government was waiting for reports from the Convention on other issues.
“It is disappointing that they have not given this issue priority and that it is not on the agenda,” Ms McShannon told The Irish Post.
“Maybe they do not realise how strong of an issue it is for so many people and that the Diaspora are waiting.”
The comments come after a trip to Dublin this week for the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly that left Ms McShannon disappointed by the number of TDs and Senators who expressed concerns about the proposed reforms.
Some thought Irish citizens abroad should not get to vote in Irish elections without paying tax at home, she explained.
Others raised fears that the number of voters outside Ireland would outnumber those inside the country.
In January the EU called on Ireland to reform its rules preventing the Irish abroad from voting in elections at home, saying it was “punishing” them for leaving and creating a class of “second class citizens”.
Referring to the delay in the Government’s response, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said: “The Taoiseach indicated in the Dáil last week that he wished to await the publication of the Chairman’s final report before the Government formally responds to the Convention’s later reports.
“The three final reports of the Convention were published on Monday 31 March 2014 and these will now be considered.”
She added that the Government intends to respond to the report on voting rights for the Irish abroad “as soon as practicable”.