A group of Irish citizens in London has stepped up its call for emigrants to be allowed to vote.
This week the Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA) campaign held a meeting in the Dáil (Parliament) with a number of legislators and pressed their case that Irish-born citizens should be allowed to vote in elections and referendums no matter where they live.
A number of Dáil constituencies for the diaspora could be created solely for emigrants so that the votes of people living abroad do not “swamp” those ordinarily resident in the Republic. Such a system, they note, is used by a number of countries such as France and Italy.
Former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny said earlier this year that a referendum of extending the vote to Irish citizens living abroad for Presidential elections could be held next year.
An election for the ceremonial position is due in fall 2018 but a spokeswoman for the campaign, Mary Hickman, said the proposal did not go far enough.
“[It] particularly doesn’t meet the demands of the young emigrants who’ve left in the last seven or eight years,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“They’re the ones who are dismayed and somewhat mystified that they lose the vote once they leave after 18 months and they really want, for example, to be participating in the various referendums and also probably in the general elections.
“So it’s on their behalf that we’re waging this campaign.”
The group currently proposes that only those born in Ireland should be allowed to retain their vote - thus disenfranchising those Irish citizens who were born abroad to Irish parents or obtained their citizenship through naturalization.
Peter Middleton, a spokesman for the group, said they were “trying to be practical at the present time”. When questioned as to whether the granting of a legal entitlement to one type of Irish citizen but not another was discriminatory and could result in a legal challenge he said he would raise the issue at the group’s next meeting.
Currently Irish voters lose their entitlement to vote 18 months after leaving the country. By contrast US citizens - whether native born or not - retain their right to vote by absentee ballot for life.
People from Northern Ireland who emigrate retain the right to vote in elections and referendums for the first 15 years after they leave the United Kingdom after which they are struck from the register. The British Government pledged at the 2015 General Election to abolish the cut-off but no further action has since been taken.