On the basis of both history and the future, extending the franchise nevertheless becomes even more imperative. Historically, as JFK acknowledged in 1963, the Irish nation has been defined significantly by the millions of people it has given to the world, people who lived outside of Ireland, who raised families outside of Ireland, who made their mark outside of Ireland, but who never renounced their ties to the Irish nation. And thus Ireland, a small state, became a vast nation.
Ireland is and has long been a global “brand.” In this, it has long anticipated the future, in which the defining technology of civilization, the Internet, is increasingly rendering physical and political borders transparent, porous, and even irrelevant. Nationhood is no longer strictly defined territoriality, but by individual heritage, self-identification, and commitment. Nationhood has become portable. We carry it with us. The very technology that, even today, facilitates the globalization of Ireland will make it easy for Irish votes to be securely cast and registered online, no matter where on earth a citizen lives. Computers and cashpoint machines are everywhere!
Throughout this year of 2013, “The Gathering Ireland” is inviting and welcoming the Irish Diaspora back to Ireland to renew—in some cases, to create—links with family and country. A year is fleeting, and the Gathering must have an enduring and meaningful legacy. What legacy could be more enduring and meaningful than the right to vote? With that right comes a connection that makes Irish Diaspora full stakeholders in Ireland’s future, socially, politically, and economically. And this, in a most literal sense, means the world to Ireland.
Throughout its long history as an exporter of people, Ireland has been understandably but unfairly branded as a place to leave. Leaving is not a bad thing! It is actually a good thing. Travel broadens the mind and increases tolerance. It is keeping in touch and coming back that counts. This year we extended a sentimental invitation to “gather.” The government needs to send a real invitation to rejoin by giving us the right to vote. Voting together, we can all make a difference.
But, if they do not want us to have a vote, at least instruct the government owned RTE to broadcast the All Ireland Final free around the world. It is free to the Irish in Ireland, it should be free to the Irish outside Ireland!
* Peter Casey a native of Derry, is Founder and Executive Chairman of Claddagh Resources a global recruitment firm. He is based in Atlanta and also features on the Irish television program Dragon’s Den which evaluates business proposals.