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Unlike people in other countries, Irish people who are no longer living in the Republic of Ireland cannot cast votes in Irish elections from abroad.

"Subject to a limited number of exceptions, Irish citizens resident outside the State do not have the right to vote at elections or at referendums held in the State," Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs says.

This is in relation to Ireland’s Electoral Act of 1992, which dictates that Irish citizens who have left Ireland for no longer than 18 months are still entitled to vote. Thus, Irish citizens living abroad for more than 18 months are not permitted to vote in Irish elections.

There are exceptions for Ireland's Defence Forces personnel and civil servants (and their spouses / civil partners) who are members of missions and who, for the time being, are serving outside the State because of the requirements of their duties.

A 2013 report from the Irish Convention on the Constitution, however, recommended that Irish citizens resident outside of Ireland should have the right to vote in Irish presidential elections. 

As such, the Irish government intended to host a referendum on whether or not Irish citizens abroad could vote in Irish presidential elections. The referendum was planned for 2019, but it was ultimately delayed largely due to Brexit. A new date has yet to be confirmed.

While a new date for the referendum has yet to be confirmed, the matter is still of importance to the Irish government. In its Diaspora Strategy 2020 - 2025, the Irish government says it aims for “greater engagement of our citizens outside the State in our democracy will strengthen the connection between the diaspora and Ireland. 

“Diaspora participation in presidential elections will strengthen the connection between the Presidency, the highest office in the State, and the diaspora.”

To facilitate this engagement, the Irish government plans to “hold a referendum on extending the franchise in presidential elections to citizens resident outside the State.”

In April 2020, Billy Lawless, then Ireland's Minister for the Diaspora, said in a letter to the Taoiseach urging the referendum to go ahead in 2021.

“We can’t have a Republic with two types of citizens – a first class with the right to vote, and a second class with no rights at all," Lawless wrote, adding that Ireland’s electoral system “now denies the vote to well over a third of all Irish citizens.”

The question of Irish ex-pats being able to vote from abroad lingers while the British government has this week moved to lift an "arbitrary" time limit for voting rights for British ex-pats.

On May 27, the British government announced: “British citizens who have moved abroad will be given ‘votes for life’ as the Government scraps the arbitrary 15-year limit on the voting rights.”

So we want to know - do you think Irish citizens living abroad should have the right to vote in Irish elections? Let us know in our latest IrishCentral Readers Poll here:

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