American founders' slogan abused in Irish voting rights debate

We're having an election. It was supposed to be on March 11, but the Irish government couldn't even hold on that long and now election day looks like it will be February 25. Unfortunately for all those thousands of (mostly young) Irish who have been forced to leave Ireland and seek work elsewhere, the election will not include them. They are ineligible to vote.

I was listening to a news program last week, one that features a weekly slot with American (right wing) talk show host Michael Graham. When Graham innocently asked how Ireland's emigrants would vote in the upcoming election, he was shocked to learn that they have no vote. Graham noted that America allows its citizens abroad to vote by mail and that in his town - near Boston - they recently had a large news item about all the Brazilians voting there in Brazil's election. How could Ireland not offer the same to its citizens?

It's true, however. Ireland is just about the only democracy that doesn't allow its citizens abroad to vote. For Pete's sake it is only two weeks ago that stories about Sudanese emigrants voting in their recent referendum were featured in local papers across America and throughout the world. Sudan! If Sudan can afford - monetarily and politically - to allow its citizens outside the country to vote why can't Ireland? {Photo - Rwandan woman voting at her country's embassy in Sweden.}

There's a lot of focus in Ireland right now on how the foreign media is portraying the country in the current political crisis. Sure the Irish government is making a mess and the media is paying a lot of attention, but we all know that this will blow over. All countries go through some political upheaval at times, but the rule of law and democracy are not threatened. It's a soon-to-be-forgotten media firestorm.

Far more embarrassing, but less widely known is that Ireland disenfranchises those who choose or are compelled to move away.

Many of those who oppose emigrant voting rights are extremely smug. They dismiss the rights of Irish citizens who live outside Ireland. They say that when you leave you have no right to have a say in how the country is run.

Their most repeated argument is that if you don't pay taxes you shouldn't get to vote, equating citizen with taxpayer. What really annoys me is that they misquote and abuse a slogan of the American revolution in making their case. "No representation without taxation" they claim, sometimes even invoking America's founders as they do so.

As all Americans know full well, the slogan is "No taxation without representation," which is a perfectly reasonable argument by any democrat. The other is a perfectly reasonable argument by someone who is arrogant, uncaring and undemocratic with a secure job and no worries about having to leave the country and who doesn't give a fiddler's curse about those who do.

{You can sign an online petition here to protest against this denial of citizens' democratic rights.}


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