For a country with such a significant history of emigration it is disturbing that Ireland is one of the very few countries in the European Union, and out of step with much of the rest of the world, in stripping its citizens of their right to vote when they leave the country. It appears that Ireland wants emigrants to go on contributing through a variety of ways, including economic, social and cultural remittances, but does not want them to have any say in the future political direction of the country to which most of them want to return.
Even though the diaspora has often been discussed as part of a modern globalised Ireland by three successive Irish presidents, by the Irish government when it seeks to use its diaspora for economic leverage, and by Irish Ambassadors as they talk about the ‘global Irish family’, an Irish citizen who does not live in Ireland can’t vote in an Irish election or referendum.
This democratic deficit sullies Ireland. We all saw pictures of Polish people in Ireland queuing to cast their vote in their last national elections. Extending the franchise to enable Irish citizens abroad to vote in general elections will not only make good this democratic deficit but also cement the relationship between Ireland and its diaspora for the future in an increasingly globalised, competitive and fluid world.
We want to raise a debate about Irish citizens abroad having the right to vote for the Irish President, Dáil Éireann and in referenda in Ireland and throughout the diaspora.
Summary of what VICA are campaigning for:
We have two parts to our campaign, concerning the Dáil and the Presidency.
1. The right to vote in elections for the Dail to be granted for all Irish citizens abroad who are first generation emigrants (that is, who were born in Ireland and left).
2. That this be managed by a system of reserved constituencies in order not to swamp the votes of resident citizens (see our submissions to the Convention on the Constitution to explain this).
3. The vote to be granted with no time limit after emigration, to reflect a long term commitment to Ireland and intentions to return.
4. That all citizens abroad (including those of Irish descent who have become citizens) should be able to exercise the right to vote for the President.