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I have received this series of questions in respect of Irish Citizens living abroad :
They write :
I am writing on behalf of Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA), an organisation which is campaigning for the right of Irish citizens to vote for President — whether they are resident in the Republic, the North, or further afield.
In the past years we have secured support from all political parties on extending the Presidential vote to all Irish citizens, with the government committing to a referendum on the issue as soon as is practicable.
The vast majority of European countries allow citizens to retain some voting rights no matter where they may reside, but Ireland lags behind on this important issue. In essence, one of the most basic rights of citizenship is stripped from emigrants and from any other citizen who lives outside the State.
I am contacting you to understand your perspective on the issue as a candidate for the Seanad — and, indeed, a candidate who will be elected by citizens living outside the State (Seanad elections are the rare exception where votes can be cast from anywhere).
– Do you support the right of all Irish citizens to elect their President?
– Do you support a referendum on the issue in the new programme of Government, as soon as is practicable?
– Do you have any other thoughts or contributions on the issue which you would be happy to share?
Is mise le meas,
Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad
V otes for Irish Citizens in Northern Ireland
My Response is
I established the International Relations function in Dublin City Council. Prior to that as Director of the City Development Board I had developed a range of global connections to support the objectives of economic, social anc cultural development. Our strength as a Nation is very dependent on our diaspora. We are quick to call on them but slow to give them acknowledgement and a share in how Ireland is governed and our policies and legislation formed.
My direct experience of working with Irish citizens abroad relates to the USA ( San Jose CA ; Washington ; New York and Buffalo ) , the UK (liverpool , London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester) , the EU (germany, Holland, belgium, France, Spain, Italy, etc) , China , Russia , South Africa., Mexico. I organised an all island gathering of sister cities between Ireland and the USA as part of the 1916 centenary and entitled it independence and interdependence,
So when it comes to voting I believe that Irish Citizens abroad should have a vote in the election of the President. I also believe that they should have a vote, as French citizens do, in the election of the Dail and Seanad.
I was asked a question recently about Seanad reform this was my answer :
” I would keep the Seanad to balance, check and address the weakness of our Dail electoral multi-seat , party whip system. In summary because the Dail has many TDs acting like local Councillors and focused on the local; the Seanad should be focused on the national and have no party whip, nor indeed party affiliation among its members. It should be much smaller in number(30), be elected at the same time as the Dail, be a full time chamber and have greater powers . My preference would be for PR multi-seat election in six constituencies : Dublin(6) ; Munster(4); Leinster excluding Dublin(4) ; Connaught(4) ; and Ulster (including Northern Ireland)(4) and Diaspora (6)(global Irish citizens registered to vote). Election would be by Universal suffrage. Ideally I would like no one running for Seanad to be formally Party affiliated and most certainly would like to ensure that Senators are not subject to any party whip on issues. “
I would also strongly argue for a two specific Dail Constituencies where Irish citizens living abroad could vote in namely European Union &UK (5 seats) and rest of the world (5 seats) . I would also like the reform process to change the manner in which voter registration happens. Voter registration should be automatic and based on Birth date. Voters then should choose which constituency they wish to affiliate to based on place of birth, place of living (study etc), place of work, place of family ties. Every five years a six month window of opportunity should allow them to make a change in their consitutency subject to choosing one of the previous mentioned affiliation categories and providing documentary proof of same. It should be possible to do all of this online. In such circumstances Irish citizens abroad have a choice of choosing one of the global consituencies to affiliate their vote with or a domestic constituency. Thus the voice and opinion of Irish citizens abroad would influence Government Policy and those whom we depend on to be our global ambassadors and global connections would be allowed inside the gate of national decision making. I should add that as a native of Northern Ireland i also favour extending the franchise and creating in Dail elections a NI consituency .
I am also in favour of citizens abroad being facililtated to vote in EU Parliamentary elections in Ireland .
I therefore support a planned development of the above, beginning with votes within the National Constituency that elects the President.. I would therefore fully support an early referendum . I would bring forward debate and seek legislation enabling citizens abroad to vote in elections to a reformed Seanad ( as detailed above) and in Dail elections. While my preference for the basis of the Dail particiaption is outlined above I have worked long enough within the Public Service to know that every radical change requires stakeholders to agree, and is often incremental in nature. In respect of Dail elections therefore the compromise may well mean not proceeding immediately with the dedicated global constituencies but to grant the vote within domestic constituencies based on last residence prior to leaving Ireland.
I trust the above clarifies my position. Electing the President shapes the symbolic and “moral” leadership of Ireland ; but electing the Dail shapes the Government and governance of Ireland.
Ireland’s economic, cultural and social strength is in it’s global reach . It’s moral strength and influence relies heavily on the impact for good of that same global reach which includes development workers and missionaries in developing countries. We can only gain by widening the range of experiences and ensuring the global perspective is present within the Oireachtas and in the election of the President.