The Sinn Fein party has called for voting rights in the presidential election for Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and those living abroad. Seán Crowe, Sinn Féin's education spokesman, said the Irish president represents the Diaspora and the vote should be extended to Irish citizens worldwide.
The party will introduce a Private Member’s motion in the Dail (Parliament) when session resume in the fall.
On Wednesday members of the group Ogra Shinn Fein wore the jerseys of counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone while protesting outside Leinster House. They also wore gags covering their mouths in protest of the lack of voting rights for those Irish citizens living in the North.
Ógra Fhianna Fáil and SDLP’s youth section have also given backing to the proposed motion.
Crowe told the Irish Times that an extension of voting rights was “a natural outworking of the Good Friday agreement, which enshrines the rights of people in the North to Irish citizenship”.
The party has called for the matter to be brought to referendum before the 2018 presidential election. However Crowe believes that a referendum could be held before the election in October. He said that if the legislation was passed quickly the vote could be extended for Northern Irish citizens and the Irish Diaspora.
He added that there was “nothing outrageous about our demand” and called on candidates in the presidential election to share their views on the vote.
He said implementing the vote extension should be part of the political reforms along with the changes made in the criteria for presidential candidate nominations. Crowe said that the difficulty for candidates to get the backing of four local authorities or 20 TDs and senators have been demonstrated during the run up to this election.
Sinn Fein will decide in September whether to put in its own candidate, to support an independent or not to get involved.