Referendum on emigrant vote ‘early next year’, says McHugh

Referendum emigrant votes
Referendum on emigrant votes needed: Joe McHugh

Ireland’s Diaspora Minister welcomes possibility of copying French system to allow emigrants vote for TDs

Ireland’s Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh has said a long-awaited referendum giving millions of Irish people living abroad a vote in the country’s next Presidential election is being planned for the first half of next year. And he held out the possibility of taking the enfranchisement beyond Aras an Uachtarain and allowing emigrants to vote for Dail TDs.

Mr. McHugh, on a ministerial visit to Uganda to review Irish Aid funded projects, told reporters: “The French diaspora get to vote for three or four seats in the French parliament and this is something that could happen in Ireland too but we must get the Presidential vote over the line first.”

Mr McHugh said specific proposals on a referendum will be put before Ireland’s Global Civic Forum in February with a view to having the referendum “within months”. He said the issue was discussed between Irish government departments, including the Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade, last Wednesday.

He chairs the relevant interdepartmental working group and committee. “We received a presentation last Wednesday from officials. We still need to figure out a proper time frame as to how this works but my aim is to have a vote next year.

“We are driving the issue hard and the Taoiseach (Enda Kenny) is very interested in it. There is an impatience on his part and his view is even to have to wait six months from now is too long. The Civic Forum in February is a place where we will have something real and tangible to present which will then go to cabinet.”

He said the government is working on a scheme to entice back Irish emigrants by matching their skills to Irish and multi-national employers. He said he will be meeting Irish companies in September who have skills shortages which could be matched by Irish emigrants who want to return home.

He had already had discussions with Google, Facebook and LinkedIn about campaign to share information globally on the skills needs of companies in Ireland. “(Not all emigrants want to) come home but those who do should be asked what their skills and needs are,” said Mr. McHugh.

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