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Calls grow for election votes for Irish abroad

The government shelves a report urging change to its law, which would have given Ireland expatriates votes in a general election.

The tens of thousands of Irish people living abroad are unlikely to be given a vote in the general election, despite a series of committee recommendations.
The tens of thousands of Irish people living abroad are unlikely to be given a vote in the general election, despite a series of committee recommendations.
Image: AP Photo/Peter Morrison

THE GOVERNMENT has faced fresh calls to allow Irish expatriates register to vote in the forthcoming general election, after it emerged that it shelved an official report recommending that Irish citizens be allowed to vote regardless of where they live.

Today’s Irish Daily Mail says that a report from the Oireachtas committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, commissioned in 2009 and which advocated that non-resident Irish citizens be given a vote in general elections, has been ‘mothballed’ by the state.

That report follows a further report produced in 2008, when the same committee advocated “improved measures” to facilitate Irish citizens who were out of the country on voting day.

However, a task force on Irish emigrants, which produced a report for Brian Cowen in 2002 when he was Foreign Affairs minister, endorsed the findings of another Oireachtas committee – that on the Constitution –  which recommended that voting rights remain confined to ordinary residents.

Ironically, the Seanad elections – where graduates of Trinity College or the National University of Ireland elect six members of the 60-strong Seanad – are run entirely by post, and do not base their electorate on whether voters live abroad.

Noreen Bowden of GlobalIrish.ie, which advocates voting rights for expatriates, said successive government hadn’t “seen it as a good thing to be able for people to be able to give their verdict on how the economy has been handled.”

Labour TD Ciarán Lynch – a member of the Environment committee that twice advocated extending the vote to citizens overseas – said ministers were apparently unwilling to implement the reports’ findings.

Labour’s document on political reform published earlier today made no reference to changing the electorate for ballots, though it did promise to introduce spending limits for local and Presidential elections.

Read more in today’s Irish Daily Mail >

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Gavan Reilly

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