Since the first muting by the Fine Gael and Labour coalition back in 2011 and the inclusion in the programme for government of a Constitutional Convention, I have been a keen activist on votes for the Irish Abroad; lobbying members of the Oireachtas and encouraging the Irish Abroad to engage with the Convention. When the Convention was completed, in 2013, it recommended by 79% extending the franchise to Irish citizens abroad to vote in future Presidential Elections. Despite its own time frame the government decided not to complete by referendum this recommendation.
“The blips in the 1970’s when more people returned than left and the current strive on job creation are noble; but our history is one of endemic and continuous emigration. The Irish Abroad therefore should have a vote in the appointments to the Dáil, Seanad and Presidency”. (Gerry Molumby)
I propose that, reasonably the only way (as carried out by many other European countries) to end the disenfranchisement of Irish citizens/passport holders overseas is to set up designated constituencies worldwide for representation to the Dáil, Seanad and voting for the President. France is a good example. I am defining an Irish citizen as anyone who holds an Irish passport as their source of national and ethnic identity. The Irish people who left Ireland in the 1950, their children and grandchildren (if they choose citizenship) are as Irish as the newly arrived in London or Boston today. Irish citizenship does not have geographical boundaries and must include people living in the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland. The pro-rata numeric balance with residents living in Ireland is achievable in designated constituencies, modelled on other European countries and an ‘Irish solution to an Irish problem’. The Report of the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs on Voting Rights of Irish Citizens Abroad presented to the Dáil on October 23rd (2015) recommended the setting up of an Electoral Commission and I would suggest that the format of designated constituencies should be their priority.
President Higgins said in June 2015 “Emigration is, at its root, an experience that is intensely personal”. You do not become less Irish by emigrating but in many ways becomes more focused on Ireland’s wellbeing. For my case here in the UK I feel as much an Irishman today as I did in 1980, when I came to work and live for the British NHS. That is the reason why, until I have a say in my homeland’s development, I will not feel fully cherished, as promised in the Proclamation of 1916.