A referendum to give Irish people living abroad a vote in the presidential election is planned for 2017, diaspora minister Joe McHugh announced this week.
As things currently stand, Irish people who have emigrated abroad are unable to vote in parliamentary or presidential elections or in any referendum that takes place in Ireland.
It is understood a referendum to rectify this for presidential elections is being planned for the first half of next year and is expected to pass.
The move was widely welcomed as a first step towards restoring votes for emigrants and those in the North. Speaking on morning radio, Fianna Fail diaspora spokesperson Senator Mark Daly said that the right to vote was the most “fundamental right of any citizen”.
“We must stop denying that right to so many millions of our citizens,” he said.
A Sinn Fein arty spokesperson said news of the referendum was a “positive development”, and that a right to vote for people living outside of the State must include people in the North.
“It is only right that we further enfranchise our Irish citizens overseas and that we work to ensure they retain a tangible link with politics and developments at home.
“This core right must be extended to Irish citizens who are living in every part of Ireland.
“The Office of Uachtaran [President] is a hugely symbolic one and it defies logic that someone from the north can become Uachtaran but not be entitled to vote for themselves.”
Noreen Bowden, co-founder of Voting Rights Ireland, an international coalition of groups campaigning on the issue, said that while the referendum is welcome, it was “only a first step”.
“All Irish citizens need adequate representation in the legislative process as well. Presidential voting rights will mean a lot to Irish citizens abroad, but the movement for emigrant voting rights won’t stop once that has been achieved.”
The 1916 Societies said that the proposed national forum to discuss the implications of the ‘Brexit’ referendum should be extended to emigrants and the Diaspora.
“We have written to all elected representatives to the major institutions across Ireland, of our own initiative and independent to the proposed forum, requesting that a national dialogue, inclusive of all sections and strata of Irish society and extending also to the overseas Diaspora, freely agree proposals for an independent and all-Ireland republic to be approved in turn by the Irish people through recourse to a national referendum.”