Convention supports emigrant votes
Published 29/09/2013 | 14:31
Proposals to extend voting rights to Irish emigrants have been approved by the Convention on the Constitution.
At a conference in Malahide, north Dublin, members voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing Irish citizens living outside the State - including those in Northern Ireland - to cast a ballot in presidential elections.
Tom Arnold, chairman of the Constitutional Convention said: "This is an incredibly important issue that is hugely relevant to thousands of Irish citizens living all over the world and this was very clear throughout the entire process."
The convention will now bring its recommendations to the Government which will decide within four months whether to hold a referendum.
Of those polled at the conference, 78% said voting rights for presidential elections should be extended to those living outside of the Republic.
A further 73% agreed that citizens resident in Northern Ireland should be allowed to have their say on the next Irish president and 38% said there should be no limit on the length of time someone has lived outside the island of Ireland.
A detailed report will now be compiled containing all of the evidence presented to the convention and the recommendations will be brought before politicians.
Mr Arnold added: "Following this outcome, we will now be lodging a formal report with Government notifying them of the recommendation of the convention regarding presidential voting rights for Irish citizens who are resident abroad."
Live video link-ups with representatives of Irish communities in Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Northern Ireland and the USA were used to provide insight into the views of the diaspora on citizenship and voting rights.
The views of 2,500 Irish citizens living abroad were also considered as part of an online survey.
Mr Arnold said: " At the outset, we actively encouraged Irish citizens all over the world to engage with the issue and offer their views. We were astounded with the size of the response and the strength of opinion on the issue. In preparation for this weekend, we considered thousands of these responses and built them into our analysis."
More than 120 countries already have provisions for their citizens living abroad to vote.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has welcomed the outcome of the convention.
He said: "The Constitutional Convention has today taken a significant step forward in its recognition of the equal rights of all. By doing so, they have also made a constructive contribution to the peace process.
"The issue of voting rights in presidential elections for citizens living in the north and those living abroad is an important one for all democrats, but particularly for citizens in the north.
"The right to vote was hard fought for there in our own lifetime. It is a fundamental human right. The fact that Irish citizens living across the border cannot vote for the President of Ireland is another anomaly of partition, but it is also a form of discrimination against citizens of this state."
The Convention on the Constitution was established by Resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas. Its membership of 100 includes 33 elected representatives and 66 members of the public.
Its purpose is to consider and deliberate on eight separate matters on which it will make recommendations (as possible future amendments to the constitution) and report to the Houses of the Oireachtas.