Sinn Féin Irish parliament leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has urged that Irish citizens living abroad, as well as Irish citizens in the Six Counties, should be  given the right to vote in the 2011 Presidential election. Deputy Ó Caoláin was addressing a public meeting in the London Irish Centre on voting rights for the Irish in  Britain on November 4th.

He said: “The Taoiseach Brian Cowen has sought to recruit well-known and talented  members of the Irish Diaspora to assist in Ireland’s economic recovery.  Surely it would add more meaning and substance to that effort if he  recognized that Irish citizens living abroad should have a voice in  national democracy.

“This is especially important for the Irish in Britain. It has new  relevance given the new wave of young Irish people forced to emigrate.

“The question is ‘Will Ireland live up to its claimed respect for its  world-wide Diaspora, including the Irish in Britain, and grant its  citizens living abroad the right to vote in Irish elections?’

“On 13 October I raised this issue in the Dáil with the Taoiseach Brian  Cowen. I asked him if any consideration was being given to widening the  electoral franchise to Irish citizens living outside the jurisdiction of  the 26 Counties.

“The Taoiseach stated that he was not aware of any such proposal and he went on: “I am saying the onus is on those who propose it to come  forward with some case for consideration. It is not for me to build  their case.”

“The case has, of course, been made many times and over many years. But I welcome this invitation from the Taoiseach to make the case and to build the case.

“The current Program for Government, agreed in October 2009, makes a commitment to establish an Independent Electoral Commission. Among the tasks of that Commission, according to the Government Program, is to “make recommendations on the feasibility of extending the franchise for Presidential Elections to the Irish abroad”.

“We will be seeking a meeting with the Minister for the Environment John Gormley to press for this commitment to be fulfilled. We will also be campaigning energetically for voting rights in Presidential elections for citizens in the Six Counties.

“In this country we would like to see people from the Irish community coming together to raise the issue here, and to actively campaign on it.

We are not seeking to monopolize this issue as a party. Other parties in Ireland should be welcomed on board this campaign.”