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Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs Report | Irish in Britain

VOTING RIGHTS OF IRISH CITIZENS ABROAD
NOVEMBER 2014

The Joint Committee on European Affairs Committee has published its Report (VOTING RIGHTS OF IRISH CITIZENS ABROAD NOVEMBER 2014) which calls for the Irish government to accept the principle that voting rights in national elections be extended to Irish citizens abroad. The Committee also recommended that an electoral commission be set up to establish how best such voting rights could be implemented in an Irish context. This is a victory for Irish in Britain whose members have long campaigned for the Government to end the disenfranchisement of citizens overseas. This has included our submission to the Constitutional Convention and the appearance by our CEO Jennie McShannon to give evidence before the Committee back in May of this year where she spoke of “the diversity of Irish emigrants amongst whom so many have a keen interest in Irish Affairs at home and includes emigrants working in Britain who sustain mortgages and families in Ireland”

Today, Jennie McShannon congratulated Committee chair, Dominic Hannigan TD on conducting a thorough investigation. She welcomed the “clarity of the committee’s report and recommendations that will now form a vital part of the agenda for this and future Governments.” She called on the Government and opposition parties to “support the new recommendations of this report and work together for its implementation.” Noting that this report will be welcomed by the Irish diaspora throughout the world,  McShannon also pledged the assistance of Irish in Britain to do all it can to help see these proposals through to a successful conclusion.

Listen to Dominic Hannigan TD and Chair of the Committee Speak about Voting Rights for Irish Citizens Abroad on RTÉ Morning Ireland

In an article that appeared this morning on Journal.ie (Nov 13 2014) Dominic Hannigan, Chair of the Committee said “It seems that no family in the country has been left untouched by members leaving as a result of the extraordinary economic and financial crisis that engulfed our country in 2008. Cheap airfares and advances in digital technology means that this latest wave of Irish emigrants are undoubtedly more connected with events at home than previous generations of emigrants. However, as Salman Rushdie declared, global citizens sometimes feel that they straddle two cultures and that at other times, they fall between two stools.”

The Joint Committee Report has made three recommendations:

i) the Government accept the principle that voting rights should be extended to Irish citizens abroad;
ii) the Government proceed to design a system that would be workable in an Irish context; and
iii) an Electoral Commission be established to implement recommendations 1 and 2 above.

You can download a copy of the report here.

Minister for the Diaspora.


Earlier this month, Irelands first ever Minister of State for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan said that Irish citizens abroad should be able to vote in Irish Presidential elections, and alluded to the possibility of Seanad and Dail voting for Irish Citizens abroad in the future.
The Constitutional Convention last year voted in favour of recommending the extension of voting rights in Presidential elections for Irish citizens who are resident outside of the State.

Now the Joint Committee on European Affairs, a cross–party committee has backed those calls. During the course of its hearings, the committee was told Ireland is among a minority of EU member states that has not extended voting rights to citizens abroad. It also heard there was a consensus from the academic literature that a case may eventually be taken to the European Court of Justice challenging the restriction.

The report is to be published later this morning and will be forwarded to the Taoiseach and the EU Commission.

You can download a copy of the report here.