“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

Advertisements “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

Ireland has most restrictive expat voting rights in EU

21 Dec

Europeans Throughout the World has produced a handy chart of emigrant voting rights across the EU that I’ve been meaning to post for quite some time.

The whole chart is very much worth a look – I’ve just pulled out one section of the data below, the answer to the question of whether expats are allowed to vote at national elections, but the chart also covers such information as means of voting, eligibility to vote for MEPs, special advisory bodies and more. Ireland, of course, is the only country with all “No’s” across the board.

European Country – Vote at national elections?
DENMARK  – (YES) but with many restrictions
GERMANY  – YES – but only within countries of Council of Europe
GREECE – NO (subject to change following recent European Court of Human Rights decision)
UNITED KINGDOM – YES (Voting right is lost after 15 years abroad – this time limit is being challenged by a Spanish-based UK citizen.)

See the chart.

Visit the Europeans Throughout the World website.

Irish Post: “Votes for Emigrants”

20 Dec

The Irish Post has carried an article on Irish emigrant voting rights by Peter Geoghegan. In it, the UK-based journalist describes his assumption that he could come home to vote, and his subsequent disillusionment upon learning that this would be illegal.

He concludes:

Given the current political turmoil in Dublin a legally binding resolution permitting Irish men and women abroad to vote is highly unlikely before the next general election.

But the campaign to extend the franchise should not wait until there is a new administration installed in Government Buildings. I wonder how many people in Ireland are aware that emigrants are excluded from the democratic process? Surely it’s time to remind them of this sad fact.

Read the full article on poll shows majority favour emigrant voting rights

20 Dec

An online poll now going on at website is currently showing that about 60% of respondents favour emigrant voting rights, with only 38% saying those who leave should lose their vote.

The question asked is “Do you think Irish citizens living abroad should be able to vote in Irish national elections?”. As of now, with nearly 500 respondents, the results are:

  • 50% say, “Yes, without conditions”
  • 11% say, “In some circumstances, such as Seanad only”
  • 38% ticked, “No, they don’t live here anymore”

The poll was prompted by a mention of a Sunday Times article by Eleanor Fitzsimons entitled “Diaspora demand their say” on yesterday’s Marian Finucaine programme.

Visit for more.

Sunday Times: “Diaspora demand their say”

19 Dec

The Sunday Times carries an article on the emigrant voting rights issue, written by freelance journalist Eleanor Fitzsimons. Entitled “Diaspora demand their say”, the article mentions It begins:

Ireland will hold a general election early next year, and this has reignited a debate as to whether the country’s sizable diaspora should be allowed to vote in it.

According to the law, those not “ordinarily resident”, that is living in Ireland on 1 September in the year before the voting register comes into force, cannot cast a ballot in Irish elections.

Recent economic difficulties have led to the return of extensive emigration. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) reports that, in the period 2006-10, emigration reached a level that had not been seen since the late 1980s.

Read the entire article on the Sunday Times website (behind a paywall).

The article was discussed by academic and political reform advocate Elaine Byrne (who also gave a mention) on Marian Finucane’s Sunday news programme on RTE Radio 1.

Edited to add: The article has also been posted on

What issues affect emigrants?

22 Oct

Emigrants are affected by government policies: the most obvious example is the case of the reluctant emigrant who wants to come home, and will only be able to do so if the economy improves. Why should that person have no voice to determine his or her own future?

Also look at the Habitual Residence Condition – many emigrants have been adversely affected by this when they move home, even though the government had specifically stated that emigrants would not be affected by this when it was introduced back in 2005. This was a broken promise and those most affected by it – people who would like to come home but might need the carer’s allowance, for example – have no say.

Broadcasting policy is another example – the government promised that it would start transmitting television to Irish emigrants in the UK by St Patrick’s Day 2009, after years of requests from the Irish community there. This has not happened, and those affected have no voice. RTE also shut down its medium wave radio service in 2008, which adversely affected many elderly Irish in the UK – again, there was no effective means of protest.

Even on taxation, there are Irish people living abroad who are paying the non-primary residence tax on their homes in Ireland – some of these people would be on small incomes and have inherited the family home, so it’s not insignificant. Paying this tax doesn’t buy them any right to representation.

Those are just a few examples, but non-resident citizens are also affected by issues such as diaspora funding, pensions, foreign policy.