Group steps up campaign for voting rights of Irish abroad

Group steps up campaign for voting rights of Irish abroad
File photo of votes being counted.

Irish expats and emigrants are set to step up their campaign to have voting rights extended to citizens living abroad.

While on his final State visit to the US in March this year, the former Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged to hold a referendum on the issue.

Mr Kenny made the promise based on the 2013 Constitutional Convention recommendation that all citizens living at home and abroad should be given the right to vote in presidential elections.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Mary Hickman, a second generation Irish woman and chair of the 'Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad' (VICA) campaign group said citizens living outside the State should be allowed to vote in all elections and referenda.

"Only citizens," she said. "We are not saying the whole Irish Diaspora which is often said to be 70 million."

"Obviously within that 70 million you might have say three million or three-point-something million citizens - and that is made up of people who have left Ireland and people like myself [who are second generation Irish]."

She said extending voting rights would bring Ireland in line with around 130 other countries around the world that have already done so.

She said her campaign understands the fears of those who believe home vote could be swamped by the millions of citizens living outside the country.

"I think that is a really justifiable fear," she said. "But we think Ireland should follow Italy and France and Portugal's example and have external constituencies."

In French general elections there are 12 constituencies reserved for citizens living aboard - with, for example, those living in Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and the Baltics all voting for one government representative.

Italy meanwhile has four overseas constituencies, divided by geographical location.

Ms Hickman's campaign believes designating a certain number of TDs as representatives of the emigrant vote would ensure the wishes of people living in Ireland would not be over overrun by those living abroad.

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