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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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Opinion: If you live in Ireland, you have a say in the local elections

Many are unaware that our local elections rank amongst the fairest internationally, with every legal resident of the country aged 18 and over entitled to take part.

Denise Charlton

WHEN WE GO to the polls in three weeks’ time we are not only selecting our representatives on the local council and for the European parliament, we are participating in what potentially could be the most inclusive elections to take place anywhere this year.

While a lot of people are unaware of this, the reality is that our local elections rank amongst the fairest internationally, with every legal resident of the country aged 18 and over entitled to take part.

At the Immigrant Council we have been approached by members of the public, canvassers and even candidates who do not know the rules.

The rule is simple: it does not matter where you were born or what citizenship you hold, if you live in Ireland you have a vote. The inclusive nature of our local elections are only equalled by our nearest neighbour, the UK. While some other EU states do allow foreigners to vote, the right is only given after a set period of residency, for example three years.

How do I know if I’m registered?

These are important days if you want to secure your voting entitlement. Local authorities across the country are about to conclude the supplement to the register of electors, to make sure of your vote it is vital that you go to www.checktheregister.ie to see that you are listed.

If you are not on the list, forms are available online, from local council offices and Garda stations to register – but the deadline to ensure your vote is 6 May.

By taking part you have a direct say in how your community is run, from the provision of public parks, to road repairs, to the delivery of essential emergency services such as the fire brigade.

What about the European elections?

In addition we are also voting to elect Ireland’s MEPs to represent us at the European Parliament, where issues such as worker and consumer rights, to a co-ordinated response to crime including human trafficking, are debated.

All EU citizens living in Ireland have a vote in this poll too, remember if you are one of the more than 60,000 people who became an Irish citizen since the last Euro election and are 18 or over then you too are included.

In partnership with Dublin City Council, Akidwa, the Africa Centre, Forum Polonia, the Integration Centre and regional partners such as Doras Luimní in Limerick and NASC in Cork we have been reaching out to people to ensure they are aware of their entitlements, being allowed to vote is a significant milestone for many who came from countries with a history of corruption, unrest and election fraud.

In addition to participation in the electoral process, we are also pleased to have been contacted by a number of candidates from a migrant background who are seeking to become leaders in their communities. They are from all parties as well as independents.

We welcome this development as a positive sign that Council chambers are starting to reflect the communities they serve.

Migrant representation

However there is still a long way to go, when the dust settles and the newly-elected Councillors and MEPs are taking their seats the Immigrant Council of Ireland will begin a process of engagement with all the political parties to ensure greater participation in the forthcoming General Election.

The level of migrant representation in our national parliament is woefully inadequate given that it is now almost two decades since large scale immigration into Ireland commenced, 15 per cent of our current population was born in another country and they deserve a voice.

We look forward to that process of engagement, for now a final reminder: Secure your vote before 6 May by going to www.checktheregister.ie

Denise Charlton is Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland

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Denise Charlton

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