Referendum to give millions of Irish abroad a vote in Presidential election planned for 2017
A referendum giving millions of Irish living abroad a vote in the next Presidential election is being planned for the first half of next year, Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh has said.
And the Minister revealed a package of measures to allow Irish emigrants return home – including matching jobs skills with needs – is currently being examined by a high level Interdepartmental Government Committee.
Speaking to Independent.ie after a special reception in Kampala to meet Irish citizens living in Uganda the Minister said while the priority is to give Irish emigrants a right to vote in Presidential elections this could evolve to general elections.
“The French diaspora get to vote for three or four seats in the French parliament and this is something that could happen in Ireland too but we must get the Presidential vote over the line first.”
Ending a three-day visit to see Irish Aid funded projects in the East African country the Minister said definite proposals on a referendum will be put to the Global Civic Forum next February, with a view to having a vote “within months” after that.
He said the issue was dicussed at the inter departmental working group on diaspora affairs which he chairs “We received a presentation last Wednesday from officials We still need to figure out a proper time frame as to how this works but my aim is to have a vote next year.”
“We are driving the issue hard and the Taoiseach is very interested in it. There is an impatience on his part and his view is even to have to wait six months from now is too long. The Civic Forum in February is a place where we will have something real and tangible to present which will then go to cabinet.”
The Minister said he will be meeting Irish companies in September who have skills shortages which could be matched by Irish emigrants who want to return home. He said he has had discussions with Google, Facebook and LinkedIn about developing a major digital communications campaign to share information globally on the skills needs of companies in Ireland.
Mr McHugh said the majority of Irish people who emigrated in recent times are highly educated and skilled. “They do not all want to come home but those who do should be asked what their skills and needs are.”
Meanwhile Minister McHugh yesterday launched an €83 million investment strategy for engagement with Uganda over the next five years. The strategy provides a framework for Irish Aid support for poverty reduction in Uganda.
The strategy is geared towards projects supporting the poorest and most vulnerable in Uganda including education, social protection, preventing HIV/AIDS, and promoting human rights and good governance.
Close to half of the funding will be spent in the north-eastern sub-region of Karamoja, where poverty rates are higher than anywhere else in Uganda. Minister McHugh visited Irish supported projects in the region during his visit.
The Minister also met yesterday with the Ugandan Investment Authority and highlighted the Government’s commitment to increasing trade and investment links between both countries.
“We believe there is potential to strengthen our trade with Uganda and the East African Community in a range of areas, such as agribusiness, aviation, construction and engineering.”