Saturday 25 March 2017

All-island voting for President would be a big mistake

The diaspora should get a vote in presidential elections - but Northerners should not, writes Dan O'Brien

VOTES: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister of State for the Diaspora, Joe McHugh, in Philadelphia Picture: PA
VOTES: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister of State for the Diaspora, Joe McHugh, in Philadelphia Picture: PA
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

Last Sunday Enda Kenny made a surprise announcement during a speech in Philadelphia, the city where the American constitution was drafted 230 years ago.

Unexpectedly, the Taoiseach gave a commitment to hold a constitutional referendum on granting voting rights in presidential elections to citizens not resident in the state. The announcement came three years and four months after the constitutional convention, which reviewed many aspects of the State's legal superstructure, strongly supported extending the franchise in presidential elections.

Kenny's announcement seven days ago, appropriately timed in the run-up to St Patrick's Day, should be welcomed. It is a meaningful gesture towards the diaspora and should benefit everyone - at home and abroad - by increasing the involvement of those resident outside the state with their home country. If there is an aspect of the proposal that is deeply problematic it is the inclusion of citizens in the other jurisdiction on this island, an issue discussed below.

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