In November 2020, the Irish Government approved a new diaspora strategy. It included a commitment to hold a referendum to extend the right to vote in Ireland’s presidential election to Irish citizens who live abroad. Such a move will bring Ireland more in line with other European countries.
The Electoral Reform Bill, now in progress in the Oireachtas, includes new provisions for adding and removing names to the electoral register; provisions that may impact the rights of Irish born emigrants to vote in elections in Ireland. The outcome and final wording of the Electoral Reform Bill depends on how voting TD’s view an Irish citizen abroad. Do they see them as an asset for Ireland because of their experience in the world, or do they lack interest because they emigrated?
Hilary T. Beirne, Chairman of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Foundation in New York City, has reached out to Irish Diaspora groups to engage with Oireachtas members to vote for granting voting rights in Ireland for members of the Irish Diaspora. He urges members of the Diaspora to get involved in the conversation concerning the value of emigrant engagement in the democratic process in Ireland. He feels this can best be done by engaging relatives and family members at home (whose opinions and votes do matter to Irish politicians) to expand voting rights to Irish born citizens abroad, and grant the Diaspora the right to vote in Presidential elections. After all, he points out the President of Ireland represents ALL Irish citizens, yet the President really only represents Irish citizens who live in the Republic as they are the only citizens that can vote, not members of the Diaspora.
By including all Irish Citizens (home and abroad) in the democratic process, the Irish government would for the first time live up to the inclusive ethos of the Irish Proclamation; that is the ‘guarantees of religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens’. Nowhere in the Proclamation does it say that the citizens who live outside Ireland have fewer rights. It clearly states, ‘ALL ITS CITIZENS” and “EQUAL RIGHTS’.