Foreign Affairs

Michael D Higgins, Labour Party candidate for the Irish Presidency, 1st May 2011…

‘it is time for our diaspora to re-connect with Ireland in a more formalised and forceful way and, in partnership with us here, to develop strategies which can bring tangible benefits to the economic and social fabric of the nation in the immediate years ahead.

Emigration was a hot topic leading up to the last general election, and many politicians spoke with passion about its impact on families and their lives, and the lack of political representation for those who leave.

Here’s a reminder of Fine Gaels position on electoral reform from Simon Coveney (Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food) in February 2011…


Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore was also reported earlier this year to have put forward an amendment to the 1993 Presidential Act that would give emigrants the right to vote for up to 15 years in presidential elections.

Sinn Fein have recently repeated the call for presidential voting rights for all Irish citizens, and it’s hard to see the government resisting given their stated commitment and desire to implement it anyway. Failure to do so would be a withdrawal from the undertaking made to the ten hundred people that depart Ireland every week, and a reminder to their familes that once your loved ones go it remains a case of out of sight, out of mind.

So, let’s see that partnership develop, and let’s do it by involving our citizens abroad in the national discussion in a fair and equal way.

Page Cache – RTE: 15/2/2011:

Giving emigrants the right to vote

The issue of votes for emigrants has arisen again. The proposal has always been controversial, but now more so, as emigration increased 81% from 2006-2010.

Migration from Ireland is at its highest level since the late 1980s. With the General Election coming up, the issue is being pushed to the fore again. Emigrants having the right to vote has been put on the political agenda many times before the Glór an Deoraí (Irish Emigrants’ Voice) lobby group was set-up to form a campaign for the right of Irish emigrants to vote in Ireland.

In March 1991, a Private Members Bill was introduced in the Dáil. If passed, this Bill would have given emigrants the right to vote for up to 15 years after becoming non-resident. However, it was defeated by 66-62. According to the then Minister for the Environment, Padraig Flynn, the Bill was opposed by the Government ‘for reasons of principle, practical and administrative reality.’

Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore put forward an amendment to the 1993 Presidential Act that would give emigrants the right to vote for up to 15 years in presidential elections. A select Committee was established in the 1990s recommending the abolition of six Seanad university seats to be replaced by three emigrant seats.

The issue was tabled in 2002 at the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, which concluded that the right to vote in Oireachtas elections should remain confined to citizens ordinarily resident in the State. The renewed Programme for Government agreed in October 2009 that recommendations be made on the feasibility of extending Presidential Elections to the Irish abroad.

In January 2010, a question was put to the Dáil by Finian McGrath, Independent TD for Dublin North Central: ‘Question 676: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support the campaign on votes for Irish emigrants in view of the fact that 115 countries already support this view; and if he will use this initiative to support the economy here.’ Then Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin responded, saying it is the responsibility of the Department of Environment to progress this issue.


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