We remember the long lines at ports and airports when Irish emigrants, at great personal cost, came home to vote in the marriage equality referendum, in May 2015.

The sense was of a lost tribe returning to its roots and having a say in a critical decision for the Irish people.

The Irish government did not make it easy. Polling stations could have been set up in embassies and consulates, a form of postal voting could have been introduced. Instead, many trekked thousands of miles, from as far away as Australia and California, to make their vote count.

Yet, as Washington expert Kevin Sullivan wrote, only about 66,000 of the 280,000 who left after the Celtic Tiger collapsed were eligible to vote leaving the emigrant Irish with a much diminished voice when it came to the battle over human rights for all.

About 125 countries around the world allow their citizens to vote in elections. Some countries, such as France, have seats set aside for the emigrants or emigres.

Unless your voting card is up to date, which usually means you have left in the last 18 months, it is impossible to vote.

But just to complicate matters college graduates can vote in the Seanad (or upper house) elections where their college sends members to the senate.

There is clear discrimination there which could surely form the basis of a major lawsuit about equality if a non-college emigrant voter sought his or her equal rights.

The Irish government appointed a Diaspora Minister, a great move and long overdue, but imbued him with little power when it came to the voting rights issue.

Read more: The voices of the Irish living abroad have been silenced for far too long

As the Emigrant Manifesto, a document put together after discussion with 150 organizations and people abroad, states Ireland is very much out of step.

It reads, “123 countries allow their citizens abroad to vote – including 25 of 28 EU countries. Ireland isn’t one of them. When you get on a boat or a plane you effectively become invisible in the eyes of the state.

“Both the OECD and the EU have recently criticized Ireland for disenfranchising its citizens abroad."

The Emigrant Manifesto lays out a five point plan which is clear and concise:

- Extend the current 18 month period, in which emigrants can remain on the electoral register, to a minimum of at least one electoral cycle and allow votes to be cast overseas (in the UK this period is 15 years)

- Beyond that, extend the right to vote in elections for the Dáil to all Irish citizens abroad who are first generation emigrants (that is, who were born in Ireland and left)

- That this be managed by a system of reserved constituencies in order not to swamp the votes of resident citizens (as happens in 14 other countries). These votes would not have a time limit

- That all citizens abroad (including those of Irish descent who have become citizens) should be able to exercise the right to vote for the President

- An Electoral Commission should be established in the first 100 days of the new government to begin this process

These are all solid and practical ideas that would address this issue, long a running sore with many emigrants. The next government needs to end this issue once and for all.

Read more: Ireland produces more immigrants than most other countries

In May 2015 Irish immigrants voted with their feet and the results manifested in the #HometoVote campaign.iStock