Varadkar wants right to vote extended to Irish workers and students abroad
TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he wants to extend the right to vote in general elections to Irish workers and students abroad.
He also said the upcoming referendum on allowing Irish citizens in other countries to vote in Presidential elections "won't be easily won".
Mr Varadkar made the remarks at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford this evening.
He paid tribute to the summer school's founder, the late barrister and political commentator Noel Whelan saying he was "a patriot who loved his country and helped make it a better place".
Mr Varadkar noted the upcoming referendum and said; "I know... that there are mixed feelings about this and it’s not a referendum that will be easily won. But I am sure it’s the right thing to do."
He said: "There’s no such thing as second class Irish citizenship and I believe an Irish citizen in Belfast or Chicago is every bit as Irish as one in Dublin or Galway in my view."
He also said he wants to extend voting rights in Dáil elections to people "who have left the country for only a few years most of whom are likely to come back".
Mr Varadkar said: "It’s wrong in my mind that our diplomats and soldiers can vote when overseas but those working for the IDA or Enterprise Ireland or Tourism Ireland cannot.
"Young people and students living abroad for a year or two shouldn’t have to come home to vote. They should be able to do it by post or in the embassy or consulate."
He spoke of the Global Ireland initiative and Ireland's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
Mr Varadkar expressed concern over the turbulent international environment including Brexit, a lack of multi-party democracy in China and the rise of far-right and far-left populism in Latin America and the US.
He said none of this is irreversible and the power of politics is to bring change.
He said he's confident Ireland has a role to play in the world as "a voice for the disadvantaged and defenceless, promoting individual freedom and defending human rights."
He said he will join other world leaders at the UN General Assembly later this month to attend summits on Climate Action and Sustainable Development Goals.
He noted that climate campaigner Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg will be attending at youth summit in advance of the General Assembly.
Mr Varadkar paraphrased US President John F Kennedy, saying of Ms Thunberg that she has "inspired many" and she "asks not what our planet can do for us, but what we can do for our planet."