Belfast student seeks permission to challenge State's failure to allow NI citizens vote in referendum

By Ann O'Loughlin

A Belfast student is seeking permission from the High Court in Dublin to challenge the State’s failure to allow citizens living in Northern Ireland vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

When the matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan in the judicial review list this week, he said, because a date has yet to be set for the referendum and the necessary legislation allowing it to be held has not yet been enacted, he was adjourning the leave application to April 9.

He directed the application brought by Roisin Morelli should be made on notice to the Taoiseach, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Attorney General.

The student claims citizens of Northern Ireland are also Irish citizens and have a constitutional right to vote in such referenda, including the proposed referendum on the repeal of the eight Amendment, which recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child.

In her judicial review proceedings, Ms Morelli seeks various orders and declarations.

These include a declaration that the respondent's refusal to allow her, an Irish Citizen residing in Northern Ireland, vote in referenda is null and void and breaches both her constitutional rights and the Good Friday Agreement.

She seeks a declaration the failure or refusal to allow her vote is inconsistent with the respondents constitutional imperative of achieving a united Ireland under Article 3.1 of the constitution, in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.

She further seeks declarations that sections of the Referendum Act and the 1992 Electoral Act that disqualify her from voting in referenda are unconstitutional, and the failure to allow her vote in the referendum breaches section 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

She also seeks orders quashing any decision by the State not to allow her vote in referenda, and the respondents take all necessary steps to allow her vote in referenda, and damages.

The application has been brought on grounds including her rights as an Irish citizen ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland has been breached because she is not allowed vote in the proposed referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

She says the Irish Constitution allows all Irish citizens the right to vote in elections and in referenda where it is proposed to change, repeal or amend the constitution.

The Good Friday Agreement recognises the right of people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves as Irish or British or hold citizenship of both countries, she said.

However, the Irish Government has refused or failed to introduce legislation allowing Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland vote in referenda, particularly the vote on the eighth amendment.

She says what is "a ban" on Irish citizens in Northern Ireland voting in referenda is not a legitimate aim.

It is not necessary in a democratic society and is a disproportionate interference with her rights as contained in the ECHR to freedom of expression in a free election, she adds.

She also says that provisions of the`1992 Electoral Act, which allows citizens vote in national elections when they register in a constituency, places a constitutionally unnecessary residency condition on the right of an Irish citizen to vote in an election or referendum.

The Irish State, she adds, has acted unreasonably by not giving any reasons why it has failed to allow her vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The precise date of the referendum will be set following a debate on the relevant Bill in the Dáil and the Seanad.

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