Emigrants and those living in Northern Ireland should be allowed to vote in Irish Senate elections, says the working group on Seanad (Senate) reform in proposals that are due to be published on Monday.
The 60-seat Senate is the Irish government’s upper house and has far fewer powers than the Dáil, the lower house. Currently its members are elected by university graduates, county councils, and other government bodies and the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the day who gets 11 appointees.
The working group, which was established by Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the wake of his failed referendum to abolish the upper house, says that there are around 800,000 foreign-based Irish passport holders who should be allowed to vote in a revamped Seanad electoral system.
Residents of the North who are Irish citizens and all adults in the Republic should also be allowed to vote, says the group.
A small number of seats should be reserved for election by county councillors, while university seats and the prime minister’s nominees will also remain.
The group, which is chaired by former Academic and Senator Maurice Manning, delivered the report to Kenny last week.
Emigrant groups have long been seeking a voice in Irish affairs and have sought full voting rights, as most other countries allow for their citizens abroad.
The prime minister has previously indicated that the government will follow the group’s recommendation, but it is unlikely that the changes will be made in time for the next Seanad election.
Opening the vote to emigrants would be an enormous undertaking logistically. The Sunday Business Post reports that the group had considered some form of online registration.
The proposed reforms would considerably change the electoral process and the composition of the Seanad.