Archive | January, 2011

David McWilliams calls for voting rights for all Irish citizens

10 Jan

Economist and broadcaster David McWilliams has called for the extension of the right to vote to all Irish citizens abroad.

In an article entitled, “If I was Taoiseach. . . what I would do to save Ireland “, McWilliams outlines a series of 10 steps aimed at fixing the economy and healing society. His ninth step:

Extend the vote to everyone who is an Irish citizen no matter where they live. The Irish diaspora is one of our greatest assets and those of the tribe who are now living abroad should never be cut off from the nation. By allowing them to vote, we bring our policy into line with the rest of Europe and tie these people to home, making it more likely that they come back with their skills and experiences and contribute to the country.

McWilliams makes an important point here: one of the reasons why we should allow our emigrants to vote is that the vote serves as a vital link with home. We value the loyalty of our emigrants; allowing them a vote will reinforce that.

And we need all the help we can get: our message to our expats should be that we welcome their experience in the political realm as much as in the economic realm.


Irish Post calls for weekend election to facilitate recent emigrants

7 Jan

The London-based Irish Post has called for the upcoming general elections to be held on a weekend, to enable recent Irish emigrants to go home to vote.

The editorial first points out that there is no postal vote option for emigrants. Postal votes are reserved for the following:

  • Irish diplomats posted abroad
  • Members of the Garda Síochána
  • Full-time members of the Defence Forces,

and those who cannot get to a polling station because they

  • have a physical illness or disability
  • are studying full-time in Ireland away from home
  • are unable to vote at your polling station because of occupation
  • are unable to vote at your polling station due to imprisonment as a result of an order of a court.

As the Post says,

In other words, for practically all the newly-arrived emigrants from Ireland – tough luck.

These are desperate times for Ireland and our community must make it clear that all those forced to leave through the Government’s incompetence deserve a say in what happens next.

At the very minimum, the imminent General Election should be held at the weekend so that at least some of the newly arrived emigrants have a chance of returning home to vote.

My first thought was that this would be unsuitable anyway, since you need to be ordinarily resident to vote, but it is the case that you retain your resident status (and thus your vote) for 18 months if you have the intention to return to Ireland within that time. So a small number of emigrants would, in fact, be eligible to vote under such circumstances.

Read the article on the Irish Post website.

“Calls grow for election votes for Irish abroad”, says

7 Jan

The website picks up a Daily Mail article that appeared today. The Daily Mail article isn’t online, but the gives a good summary:

THE GOVERNMENT has faced fresh calls to allow Irish expatriates register to vote in the forthcoming general election, after it emerged that it shelved an official report recommending that Irish citizens be allowed to vote regardless of where they live.

Today’s Irish Daily Mail says that a report from the Oireachtas committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, commissioned in 2009 and which advocated that non-resident Irish citizens be given a vote in general elections, has been ‘mothballed’ by the state.

The article includes a few words from my quotes in the article:

Noreen Bowden of, which advocates voting rights for expatriates, said successive government hadn’t “seen it as a good thing to be able for people to be able to give their verdict on how the economy has been handled.”

Read the whole article on the website. “Voting rights for Irish emigrants”

6 Jan

Journalist Peter Geoghegan has a piece on emigrant voting rights on, and it’s well worth reading, both for the article itself and for the lively debate that ensued.

A segment:

But in truth Irish emigrants should be expecting more than just the right to vote in the Seaned. Ireland is the only country in the EU, and one of only 50 countries around the world, that does not allow citizens living abroad to vote. Unlike citizens of Ghana, Mexico, Dominican Republic and around 115 other countries, Irish people living outside the Republic of Ireland are barred from directly participating in the electoral process.

Noreen Bowden, editor of, believes that Irish emigrants’ have paid the price for their own generosity:

“Irish people aboard are very generous to Ireland in so many ways so there’s never been much of a need to go the extra mile to engage with them politically. Many countries have allowed emigrants to vote as a way to encourage them to contribute economically. Ireland has never needed to do that.”

Emigrant voting rights have, of course, been on the political agenda in Ireland for quite some time. Back in the 1990s there were serious proposals to elect representatives of the Diaspora to the Seanad, in much the same way that universities hold six seats in the second house. Unfortunately this suggestion came to nought following a split between advocates of immediate full voting rights for emigrants and those who saw the Seanad as a first step towards this broader goal.

More recently a mandate to prepare a proposal for extending the franchise at presidential elections to include the Irish abroad was included in the current coalition’s Programme for Government. Even this proposition, which falls far short of the full representation emigrants’ deserve, has gone nowhere. Indeed both John Gormley and Brian Cowen denied all knowledge of it when questioned on the subject in the Dail by their own colleague Michael Martin.

The suggestion of emigrant voting proved highly controversial, and the comments are also worth reading.

Read the whole article on “Irish Emigrant Voting Rights Petition”

3 Jan has launched a petition supporting emigrant voting rights.

It’s worth signing, and it’s also worth reading these thoughts from the site:


  • We are in a new era of mass emigration
  • Modern communication systems allow citizens abroad to keep up to date
  • Most emigrants currently leaving envisage returning to Ireland in the future
  • Recent EU research shows that young Irish have a higher than average interest in politics
  • Ireland is looking for new ways to engage with its diaspora
  • Irelands emigrants invariably refer to Ireland as home
  • We can either cherish the bond, or not!
  • A healthy diaspora relationship relies on both mutual benefit and mutual responsibility

The petition supports a simple principle:

“I believe in the principle of voting rights for Irish emigrants and I request that the Irish government identify and implement a fair system of voting rights for Irish citizens abroad.’

Read more and sign the petition at