MEMBERS of the Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad campaign group met Irish Ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill, in London on Tuesday, October 9th.
Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA) is a London-based group of Irish people campaigning for Irish citizens living abroad to be given the right to vote in general elections, Presidential elections and referenda.
They discussed the current Irish government’s commitment to a referendum in 2019, to give Irish citizens living abroad the right to vote in presidential elections. The group sees this as a positive first step towards bringing Ireland in line with 115 countries worldwide who enable their citizens abroad to vote.
Their meeting comes after a European Parliament committee last week criticized Ireland’s disenfranchisement of Irish citizens living abroad, as an infringement on their right to move freely within the EU. The issue was highlighted as particularly urgent given the possibility that an estimated 350,000 Irish citizens living in the UK will not be able to vote in EU elections after Brexit.
The Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad group will hold an information and volunteering evening in London on Monday, October 15th. Speakers at the event will include Senator Billy Lawless (Chicago-based Irish emigrant and member of the Seanad) and Breda Corish of the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign group, which led the vibrant #hometovote campaign in May 2018. The event is free but registration is essential.
Speaking about the campaign, Chair of VICA Professor Mary Hickman said: "The meeting came about because we offered to update the Ambassador prior to our public meeting on Monday.
"The government has indicated that it is considering holding a referendum in the early summer next year. We're trying to anticipate that and trying to meet with them and persuade them to make a positive decision.
"While they've announced that they're willing to hold one, there has been no confirmation that it will definitely happen," Prof. Hickman added.
"Enda Kenny a year or two back said they were committed to holding it. The convention voted 78% in favour of giving Irish citizens abroad the right to vote for the presidency. That would require constitutional change. Obviously theres been government changes since then but they have said that they remain committed to it as part of their global Irish policy.
"We have been campaigning for this since 2011. Our main task is to raise the campaign and try to influence things from Britain.
"After all, there are more Irish-born people living in Britain than anywhere else in the world."