The 2016 general election comes at a pivotal moment in Irish history. Emerging from the economic crisis and on the centenary of the proclamation of the Republic, this election will help to shape our nation for the next hundred years.
123 countries allow their citizens abroad to vote – including 25 of 28 EU countries. Ireland isn’t one of them. When you get on a boat or a plane you effectively become invisible in the eyes of the state.
Since the last election, according to the latest available CSO figures, the net exodus of Irish stands at 130,000 people, a minimum of up to 1,000 voters lost every fortnight. That’s like telling the population of Mayo it cannot vote next year.
Both the OECD and the EU have recently criticised Ireland for disenfranchising its citizens abroad. These are not just questions for emigrants. They emerge from the same questions we all need to ask ourselves about who gets to make decisions, and in whose interests.
As we’ve seen with the #hometovote campaign, the Irish abroad remain up to date and engaged with their home politics, and have a huge appetite to help shape a better, fairer future for Ireland. But in the run up to the next General Election, these people will be left without a voice again.
- Extend the current 18 month period in which emigrants can remain on the electoral register to a minimum of at least one electoral cycle and allow votes to be cast overseas (In the UK this period is 15 years)
- Beyond that, extend the right to vote in elections for the Dail to all Irish citizens abroad who are first generation emigrants (that is, who were born in Ireland and left)
- That this be managed by a system of reserved constituencies in order not to swamp the votes of resident citizens (as happens in 14 other countries). These votes would not have a time limit
- 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
- An Electoral Commission should be established in the first 100 days of the new government to begin this process