The Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA), founded by a group of Irish in London, is campaigning to give Irish citizens abroad the right to vote for the Dáil (Irish government). This week the campaigning group has submitted two papers to the Constitutional Convention.
VICA's papers illustrate why all citizens of the Republic of Ireland should be entitled to vote in elections and referenda and how this could be managed through reserved constituencies.
Professor Diarmaid Ferriter of University College Dublin, and a VICA sponsor, has said “Ireland is out of step with 115 countries around the world in not enabling its citizens abroad to participate in national elections, depriving them of a voice or a role in shaping the future of their country….this is a fundamental injustice that needs to be rectified.”
Established in London in 2010, VICA.ie is a non-partisan campaign group chaired by Mary J. Hickman, Professor of Irish Studies (St Mary’s University College, London) who is motivated by the general principle of citizen voting rights and by the recent increase of Irish citizens emigrating from Ireland.
VICA.ie currently raises awareness of the issues through round table discussion groups, debates and public information campaigns in Ireland, Britain and the United States.
“The immediate disenfranchisement of Irish citizens as soon as they leave the country is a source of anger and frustration” said Professor Mary Hickman. “Irish citizens who have had to leave have no say about the direction the country should take”.
The Convention will convene next in May to discuss electoral reform, while September will see a debate on extending the franchise for the Presidency. VICA.ie has prepared two papers setting out a case for each of these motions. For first generation emigrants from Ireland the chief goal is to extend the franchise so they can vote in general elections for the Dáil, to vote for the President and in referenda.