Taoiseach announces plan for referendum to allow Irish diaspora vote in presidential elections

Taoiseach announces plan for referendum to allow Irish diaspora vote in presidential elections
Taoiseach Enda Kenny being interviewed by Bob Kelly of FOX 29 News during the annual St Patrick's Day parade in Philadelphia today. Pic: PA

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced plans for a referendum to allow millions of Irish citizens living abroad to be eligible to vote in Irish presidential elections.

Speaking at a famine memorial event in Philadelphia at the start of his week-long US St Patrick's day visit, Mr Kenny confirmed the move will be sought by Government to ensure the voice of the Irish diaspora can be heard.

While the proposal was recommended in the Citizens Convention's fifth report in 2014, writes Fiachra O Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner in Philadelphia.

However, Government has until now been reluctant to adopt the policy, in part due to the fact such a move would be likely to favour Sinn Fein and would see people who are not living or paying taxes in Ireland entitled to decide who represents the country.

Speaking at the event today, Mr Kenny said: "A key theme that emerged from submissions received during the development of Ireland's diaspora policy was the importance of the issue of voting rights to many Irish citizens abroad.

"Many members of the diaspora felt it would allow them to deepen their engagement with Ireland and to play a more active role in Irish society. This is something with which I absolutely agree.

"That is why I am delighted to be announcing today that the Irish Government has decided that Irish citizens resident outside the State, including in Northern Ireland, should be allowed to vote in Irish presidential elections.

"This is in line with the recommendations made by our Convention on the Constitution in their fifth report.

"This proposal will, of course, require the approval of the Irish people in a referendum to amend the Constitution.

"If the referendum is passed, it will also involve significant work to determine new eligibility rules, to draw up legislation and to implement a new electoral register and new voting procedures for all of our citizens."

Government officials have acknowledged the move will cause a series of legal, policy and practical issues, and as such will publish a detailed "options paper" later this month.

This option paper will be among the issues to be discussed at the Global Irish Civic Forum in Dublin in May.


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