It follows the banning of a local election candidate in Cork from canvassing a centre where up to 150 migrants are registered to vote in next week’s election.
Sinn Féin candidate Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, standing in the Ballincollig-Carrigaline electoral area, said he was refused access to canvass residents of the Kinsale Rd accommodation centre because of a national policy to keep such centres politically neutral.
“I rang the centre hoping to make arrangements to visit the residents, and canvass for support in the coming days,” he said.
“However, I was informed that candidates were not permitted to enter to canvass, that this was a national policy, and that centres had to be kept politically neutral.”
He then contacted the Reception and Integration Agency, which manages the country’s network of direct provision centres, which confirmed policy is to keep the facilities “politically neutral zones”.
“It is my view that this is wrong, and is a breach of the democratic rights of the more than 150 people who are registered to vote at the centre, and who should be just as entitled as anyone else to meet their public representatives,” said Mr Ó Laoghaire.
“We cannot continue to adopt the policy of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ This is another way in which those in direct provision are being marginalised.
“They deserve the same ability to put questions to their representatives as anyone, and I believe that this is an interference with the democratic rights of the residents.”
“They are vulnerable enough and this policy only marginalises them further.”
The Immigrant Council of Ireland led calls last night for the ban to be lifted because it means voters are being treated unfairly and will be unable to make an informed decision.
“We believe this is wrong,” said ICI chief executive Denise Charlton.
“Canvassing is an opportunity to inform residents, who in many cases have limited or no access to the web and other media to find out what each candidate stands for.
“For some asylum seekers the local poll could be their first opportunity to take part in fair and free elections.
“As a matter of urgency we are asking for a review of this ban to allow opportunities for candidates and parties to engage with all voters on an equal basis.”
Irish immigrant support group Nasc, who organised a “register to vote” initiative for migrants in Cork City earlier this year, described the canvassing ban as undemocratic.
“We are quite disappointed at this but it is welcome to see a local candidate interested in and having awareness of this issue,” said a spokesperson.
“A lot of local politicians don’t even know that these residents can vote.”
It is expected that Nasc will try to facilitate a meeting between the residents of the Kinsale Rd centre and their local election candidates over the coming days.