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Top Irish columnist calls for Diaspora votes in Irish presidential elections

Fintan O'Toole
Calling the Irish presidential election "Both extremely nasty and utterly vacuous" Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole has called for emigrants and Diaspora groups to have the right to vote in future races.

O'Toole, perhaps Ireland's most influential columnist wrote " The one thing we’ve really learned from the campaign is this: that we should never do this again."

He was referring to the 'Seinfeld' nature of the election which is really not about issues but about personalities.

Instead O'Toole argued for expanding the nature of the electorate dramatically.

"The good news is that just two tiny things have to change: the electorate and the office. One way of making a presidential election meaningful is to make its weakness a strength. The presidency has no day-to-day power. But precisely because it has no day-to-day power, it can offer at least a partial solution to a genuine Irish dilemma.
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" The dilemma is this: the history of emigration and the consequences of partition mean that we have a mismatch between the population of the State on the one side and “the Irish people” on the other. There are millions of Irish citizens outside of the State who identify very closely with it: Northern nationalists, recent emigrants and the wider Irish diaspora.

Giving such people a vote in general elections runs up against the old “no representation without taxation” argument. That argument has never been fully teased out, but in any case it does not apply to an office that has no influence over decisions on tax and spending."

"Allowing all Irish citizens, wherever they live, to vote in the presidential election would make that election much more interesting. It wouldn’t just be another ballot, it would be a different kind of democracy."


O'Toole stated that the only meaningful Irish presidential election was the 1990 contest between Mary Robinson and Brian Lenihan.

"Here were two very substantial figures in Irish public life who provided stark contrasts, not just in gender, but in manner, language and ideology. There was a real clash of cultures in which the choice to be made was of some consequence for the way Ireland saw itself and the way it was seen around the world. The election wasn’t just full of human drama. It felt epic."

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