Emigrant voting rights are likely to be discussed at this weekend’s Other Voices music festival in Dingle, as a special Generation Emigrant panel examines ways to encourage the “Creative Diaspora” to return home. The Irish Times carries a report in advance, which is worth reading.
Joey Kavanagh of the Get the Boat to Vote campaign is particularly eloquent on the need for emigrant voting:
For this reason, it was such a joy to work on the Get the Boat 2 Vote campaign earlier this year, encouraging vote-eligible Irish citizens abroad to return home to vote yes in the same-sex marriage referendum. It was incredible to hear from the Irish nationals living abroad who come #HomeToVote, determined to play their part in seeing the referendum passed.
Time and time again, we heard how these people saw themselves returning to live in Ireland at some point in the future, and felt a responsibility to help shape the Ireland they want to return home to.
I know that I’ll return to settle in Ireland at some point. There’s never been any question about that. So, it’s incredibly frustrating that this week, having now lived outside of Ireland for 18 months, I’m officially no longer eligible to vote in Irish elections and referendums.
Ireland’s voting provisions for citizens abroad are among the most restrictive in the Western world and the Irish government has, so far, ignored calls from both the European Commission and Constitutional Convention to review its “disenfranchising” of emigrant voters.
It’s disappointing that Irish citizens abroad continue to be excluded from casting ballots, even after the collective effort of those who came #HomeToVote demonstrated very clearly that the diaspora feel hugely invested in the future of Irish democracy.
If Ireland is serious about curtailing the so-called brain drain and encouraging return migration, a major step forward would be to afford equal voting rights to all citizens and recognise that, in 2015, the Irish nation extends far beyond the Irish State.