independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Extending vote to citizens living abroad to be discussed

President Michael D Higgins: overseas voters could vote in future presidential elections
President Michael D Higgins: overseas voters could vote in future presidential elections

Extending the vote in presidential elections to Irish citizens living abroad is being put under the spotlight

The Convention on the Constitution will meet to discuss the issue this weekend and report back to Government, which will decide if a referendum should be held.

Tom Arnold, chairman of the convention, said thousands of Irish citizens living as far as Afghanistan and Zambia have already given their views in an online questionnaire.

"This is an extremely important matter that has evoked a passionate response from Irish citizens currently living in all corners of the world," he said.

"The response has been phenomenal and the fact that we had replies from 64 countries goes to show the geographical reach of the Irish diaspora.

"Extending the voting franchise to Irish citizens who are resident outside the State could have far-reaching implications and the Convention will approach the matter in a considerate and respectful way.

"All of the potential implications must be carefully assessed to facilitate an informed vote on the issue."

A global panel discussion will take place at the convention, which is meeting for the sixth time, with representatives from the Irish communities abroad joining the debate simultaneously via live video link-up.

Irish embassies taking part include Sydney, Australia; Munich, Germany; Paris, France; New York, USA; and Montreal, Canada.

Representatives for Britain and Northern Ireland will join the debate from the main stage at the meeting, alongside Northern Ireland MLA Convention members.

Academics and legal experts on a range of related issues, including the position of Northern Ireland and the impact of a possible extension of the franchise to citizens there for Irish Presidential elections, will give presentations.

Elsewhere members will hear about how other countries manage voting abroad while the Central Statistics Office (CSO) will make a presentation on the numbers of Irish citizens resident outside the State.

Mr Arnold called on people worldwide to follow events being live streamed at www.constitution.ie and on Twitter via #ccven.

"The proceedings will be broadcast live on the web and I would like to strongly encourage Irish citizens, at home and abroad, to tune in to the debate and get involved," he added.

Press Association

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