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Counting in the Family and Care Referendum earlier this year. Leah Farrell

20 years of legal migrant voting in Ireland but conspiracies about it are being shared online

Claims that migrants being allowed to vote in local elections is wrong or a sign of corruption have been spreading online in recent weeks.

CLAIMS THAT MIGRANTS being allowed to vote in local elections is wrong, a sign of corruption or something that is unconstitutional have been spread online in the buildup to voting today.

“This is absolute voting corruption and a national scandal. How in the name of god is this allowed?,” a post on earlier this week by celebrity chef Paul Treyvaud said about Ukrainians being registered to vote.

“How was there no referendum for this. How can any genuine candidate compete with this. How can somebody just in the country be allowed to vote on something so important?”

Treyvaud acknowledged in a further post that he was aware of the referendum that allowed for refugees and asylum seekers to vote in the 1990s and said he knew it applied to local elections only but added “this right to vote needs to be removed immediately”. 

As of this afternoon the original post had been viewed over 470,000 times on the platform and reposted over a thousand times. The follow-up post had been viewed less than 80,000 times. 

Elsewhere, a recent video featuring anti-migrant activist Stephen Kerr, who is running in Castlebar local elections, complained that posters by one of his rivals, Labour’s Kamal Uddin, had been “strategically placed” outside a refugee centre.

And on X this morning, Ben Gilroy, who ran as a candidate for EU elections in 2019 and has previously spread misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic, wrote: “There is something seriously wrong that economic migrants can enter Ireland illegally, claim asylum and then vote in our local elections?”

Other claims about entitlements to vote in the local elections have been made online in recent months. 

Last September, The Journal examined claims made in a video released by online outlet Gript which said guides issued by the government about voting in Ireland, which were produced in multiple languages including Ukrainian, were a “self-serving power-grab”.

The video also suggested that the government was allowing people from “all over the world who don’t even speak English, let alone Irish, to vote in their droves by the tens of thousand” because the asylum seekers will be so grateful that they’ll vote for government parties. 

The video in question has now been viewed more than 106,000 times on X, and 31,000 times on Facebook.

Multiple posts made on X in the past week make similar claims, with one describing letting “illegal migrants” have a vote as being “a grotesque act of treason”. 

Some of these claims about migrant voting echo misinformation that has spread overseas, particularly in America where Donald Trump and his supporters have, for years, accused the Democratic Party of conspiring to allow migrants in, hoping for their votes.

1999 referendum 

Refugees and asylum seekers have been allowed to vote in local authority elections for the past two decades in Ireland, as per the Twentieth Amendment to the constitution approved by referendum in 1999 – but cannot vote in other elections. Refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland were eligible to vote for the first time in local elections in June 2004. 

The European elections are also taking place today. To cast a vote in those you must be an Irish citizen aged over 18. If you are an Irish citizen but are living in another EU country, you can vote in that country.

Irish citizens and British citizens who live in Ireland can vote in general elections. Irish citizens over 18 can vote in presidential elections

Claims that recent arrivals to the country are likely to decide who gets elected are also being exaggerated.

According to the most recent figures from International Protection Accommodation Services, there are currently 30,757 asylum seekers in their accommodation, of whom 7,555 are children.

Data provided by the CSO indicates that there were more than 3,930,000 adults in Ireland in 2022. This figure has likely risen, though even keeping with the lower number, this suggests that asylum seekers make up less than 0.6 percent of the potential voters in local elections.

Research carried out in the wake of the 2019 local elections in Dublin showed that only one in 10 registered non-EU residents turned up to vote in the capital.

“The ultimate goal of these tactics is to introduce doubt and sow discord so that if the election results do not align with the desires of certain groups, they may claim the vote was rigged,” Senior Analyst the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Ciarán O’Connor writes in The Journal today in a piece further exploring the importation of ‘Stop the Steal’ election tactics from the US.

“This approach serves to threaten the electoral process, create a cycle of distrust and undermine the mandate of those who were victorious.

“In Ireland, as elsewhere, the ultimate loser in this scenario is democracy itself.”

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Shane Raymond and Daragh Brophy