Whilst there is no universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’ there are some inherent principles in the process we subscribe to. One is that statements of intent made by political parties during an election are signals of what to expect should they be voted into government. We also know that when conditions change plans may change to suit, at which point we normally anticipate a clear explanation for that change.
However when a statement of intent is discarded, and no explanation is provided, we’re left with a choice; shrug our shoulders and let it go, or challenge it.
During the general election campaign of 2011 the present government made a statement of intent to the tens of thousands leaving Ireland each year, and to their families, that the state’s relationship with Irish citizens abroad is going to change:
Fine Gael : 7th Feb 2011
“We are proposing that in the upcoming presidential election that we would allow eligible Irish citizens abroad to vote at Irish embassies, and if that is a success we hope to extend the practice to general elections so that Irish people whether they’re living in Boston, or Toronto, or Sydney, or Brussels or wherever will actually have a say in how their country is being governed.”
Labour : 8th Feb 2011
“People who have been forced to leave this country in search of work are justifiably angry and should not be denied the chance to vote on how their country is run. Currently, the only people entitled to an absentee vote are civil servants and military personnel who are working out of the country. We want this to be extended to all emigrants, at least during their first five years out of the country.”
That commitment to carry out a review of voting rights for Irish citizens abroad has subsequently quietly been dropped, and this leaves us offering nothing new to those leaving Ireland today, whilst still aspiring to a different relationship? Maybe even more importantly one of the principles of democracy is being sidelined, and for that reason alone we might be right to raise the challenge regardless of the particular subject.
Either way, we’d be more than saddened to see a repeat of earlier waves of emigration where those who leave are effectively disenfranchised. If you agree you can sign our petition asking the government to honour its statement of intent: