Irish in Britain CEO Jennie McShannon has called for diaspora representation in the Seanad (the Irish senate) now that it is not being abolished.
McShannon, who runs one of Britain’s leading Irish organizations stated “I believe a reformed Seanad would benefit from establishing a new ‘diaspora’ panel of three senators elected by citizens resident overseas.
“Given a commitment to change and sufficient political will to make it happen, I believe this can be accomplished reasonably quickly. I believe this proposal will be popular and seen to make sense by a clear majority of citizens overseas and citizens at home. Through our Diaspora Voice campaign initiative, Irish in Britain will be encouraging discussion, listening to our community and pressing politicians for positive support.
"As Irish citizens overseas, Irish in Britain has welcomed the recommendation of the Constitutional Convention to extend overseas voting for the President. That would be a great honor. But many will say - most other countries allow their citizens to vote in all their national elections; why not us?
“Failure of the government-led referendum to abolish the Seanad means a discussion about reform is inevitable. I cannot conceive that adjusting arrangements for the Graduate vote is the right place to start. The overseas graduate vote had its place in history. But nowadays it reads like old-fashioned discrimination.
“Irish in Britain believes that all overseas adult citizens should be entitled to participate in presidential and national elections. The Global diaspora is increasingly important for Ireland – our economy, our diplomatic standing; for family well-being, for culture, arts and sport. To reap the full benefits of global diaspora, the Government need to find ways to secure our active involvement in public affairs.
“In the national discussion about reform of the senate, we believe our involvement will create a better result. We want to be engaged and are calling on the Irish government and all the political parties to consult with citizens overseas about the future shape of Irish democracy.
“Polling of Irish overseas and Irish at home shows firm support for an overseas votes. The next stage of the discussion will be about the representation of overseas Irish in the national parliament.
She also pointed out that
* In a global survey conducted by Constitutional Convention 84% favored overseas votes for the Office of President
* The Irish Research Council (IRC) survey conducted at the University of Cork showed 79% of Irish resident in Ireland supported overseas citizens getting a vote in presidential elections and 69% for a vote in general elections – Dail or Seanad.
* Members of the Constitutional Convention 78% favored for citizens resident outside the state to vote in Presidential elections
* Irish in Britain survey – as yet unpublished: “We’re not out there waving placards, but 86% of the people we’ve polled think citizens overseas should be voting in the Presidential election.
* The same survey found that 72% think Irish overseas should get votes in national elections for the Dail or for a reformed Seanad. Even more, 74% think overseas voters should have a say in national referendums.
* Ireland has lost 300,000 in the past four years, mostly adults. The IRC study published last month found that among recent migrants aged 25-34, over 60% Irish are graduates.