Discussion paper published on-line ahead of Global Irish Civic Forum next month
The move towards allowing Irish citizens living outside Ireland to vote in Irish presidential elections was given a boost last week as Minister Simon Coveney laid out how the recommendation might be realised.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently announced that there would be a referendum held on whether Irish citizens all around the world should be able to vote to determine Ireland’s President. However, the Irish Government has moved to address the specific issues in terms of who would be eligible to take part. There are seven potential scenarios stated in the “options paper”, ranging from anyone with an Irish passport to those who were born, or have lived at least a year, on the island.
Citizens resident outside the State
“Other countries give citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in their national elections and I think it is important that Ireland should do the same for our people,” Mr Coveney said. “However, as a nation that has always been outward looking we have a strong representation all over the world with a significant number of citizens resident outside the State compared to the population of the State.
“This makes our circumstances quite exceptional but I think that it’s time to move forward on the matter of extending the franchise at presidential elections to citizens resident outside the state.”
The Irish Government said the paper is a chance to mould the first discussions on the subject, with the Global Irish Civic Forum in May pencilled in as a place to move things forward. The hope is that the preferred option will be identified there so it can be readied for the referendum. This referendum is unlikely to be held in 2017 and, assuming it passes, would come into effect for the presidential election after the one set for 2018.
Mr Kenny said the decision to potential make such changes was “an historic recognition of the strong and enduring links between Ireland and all our citizens, wherever they are in the world”.
Any concerns that the 3.6 million Irish living in Northern Ireland and overseas could eclipse the 3.2 million people registered to vote in the State are also addressed by the paper. It cited elections in the UK, Canada and Australia, where large numbers of expatriates are permitted to cast ballots but comparatively few actually do.
It notes that in the last UK elections there were 263,902 overseas electors out of an estimated overseas population of five million in December 2016. And in Canada’s 2015 general election, 15,603 overseas citizens out of an overseas population of two million were registered to vote, but 11,000 did. In Australia’s 2013 national elections 455,000 people were registered to vote out of an overseas population of one million. Less than 74,000 actually voted.
“While it is highly unlikely, given trends internationally, there is the possibility, in theory, that the electorate outside the State may exceed the electorate within the State at some future presidential election,” Mr Coveney said.
The full options paper is available to view at www.housing.gov.ie
THE SEVEN OPTIONS RELATING TO VOTING IN IRISH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
1) All citizens outside the State;
2) All citizens on the island of Ireland, and all citizens outside the island of Ireland for a period of time who have lived in the State;
3) All citizens on the island of Ireland, and all citizens who have left the island in the previous 15 or 20 years;
4) All citizens on the island of Ireland, and all citizens resident outside the island of Ireland who hold a valid Irish passport;
5) All citizens resident outside the State who were previously registered to vote in the State;
6) Citizens resident outside the State who were born on the island of Ireland; or
7) All citizens on the island and all citizens outside the island of Ireland who were born on the island or who have lived on the island for at least one year.