Referendum next year on giving vote to emigrants
A referendum on giving millions of Irish living abroad a vote in the next Presidential election is being planned for the first half of next year, Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh has said.
And he revealed that a package of measures to allow Irish emigrants return home - including matching jobs skills with companies' needs - is currently being examined by a high-level inter-departmental Government committee.
Speaking to the Irish Independent after a reception in Kampala to meet Irish citizens living in Uganda, Mr McHugh said that while the priority is to give Irish emigrants a right to vote in presidential elections this could evolve to include 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," he said.
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 referendum "within months" after that.
He said the issue was discussed at the inter-departmental working group on diaspora affairs, which he chairs. "We received a presentation last Wednesday from officials. We need to figure out a timeframe 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," said Mr McHugh.
The minister said that in September he will be meeting Irish companies with skills shortages that could be matched by Irish emigrants who want to return home. He added that 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 firms in Ireland.
Mr McHugh said most 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," he said.
Meanwhile Minister McHugh yesterday launched an €83m investment strategy for engagement with Uganda over the next five years. The strategy provides a framework for Irish Aid support for poverty reduction in the country.