Mary Hickman on why it’s time to give emigrants the vote

Professor Mary Hickman, the head of Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad, has written an article in the Irish Times  detailing VICA’s plans to push for emigrant voting rights in 2016.

She explains that the issue is becoming increasingly relevant, with the pressure building from a number of political sources within Ireland:

Pressure is not only mounting in the diaspora but also within Ireland itself. Each body that examines the issue in detail concludes that the franchise should be extended to citizens living abroad.

The Fifth Report of the Convention on the Constitution issued in November 2013 recommended amending the Constitution to give citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections at Irish embassies, or otherwise. The Government has yet to respond by organising a debate in the Dáil as it had promised to do within four months.

The House of Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs issued a report in 2014 recommending that the Government accept the principle that voting rights should be extended to Irish citizens abroad; that the Government should proceed to design a system that would be workable in an Irish context; and an Electoral Commission should be established to implement these recommendations.

Still the Government prevaricates. Always, the message is that there are many practical and operational challenges to consider. But dozens of countries around the world have sorted out workable arrangements. There are many examples to learn from.

The Government requested in early 2015 that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, in cooperation with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister of State for Diaspora Affairs, analyse the eligibility criteria and practical considerations for any extension of the franchise. We still await the publication of this cross-departmental analysis.

Professor Hickman outlines VICA’s plans for the 2016 election:

We will ask existing TDs and all candidates for a pledge on the issue. Manifesto commitments have proven unreliable in the past.

We will ask the friends and families of citizens abroad to raise the issue on the doorstep with candidates seeking election to the Dáil. Many people voting next year will be a parent, sibling or close friend of an emigrant abroad.

We will run a media campaign focusing on social media; the press; and local radio stations in Ireland.

This is an issue whose time has come, and implementing votes for Irish citizens abroad will bring so many benefits to Ireland flowing in on a tide of goodwill.

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