Every week on VotingRights.ie, we’re going to feature a paper from our Citizenship Papers series. The series was launched at a conference earlier this spring. We’re kicking off with the opening charge from our recent conference, which was given by former Senator Billy Lawless, a co-founder of VotingRights.ie.
In his paper, Lawless addresses Ireland’s relationship with the Irish abroad, touches on the “hierarchy of Irishness”, and calls for reform. We’re featuring a few quotes below.
On the relationship:
We believe that there is a great imbalance in the relationship between the Irish State and its emigrant community. We are seen as a resource. We are Ireland’s soft power. And yet we remain shut out of the political process. Is there an emigrant sitting today in the Irish Dail or Irish Seanad? No. There is not.
On delayed reform:
In 2013 our Constitutional Convention voted 78% in favor of giving citizens living outside the State, including Northern Ireland, the right to vote in Presidential elections; that was eight years ago. Why is the pace of reform so slow, and why is there a hesitation in the government’s full embrace of the Irish emigrant community?
A call for a Citizen’s Assembly:
Our concern is simply this – the language of the Constitution is expansive and inclusive and embraces all Irish citizens but the State’s policies are often outdated and restrictive and in opposition to the core principle of the E.U regarding freedom of movement, and the right to vote in your own home country. We can’t cherry pick E.U. policy.
This is why we call the on the government to launch a new Citizens’ Assembly on voting rights and election reform. This is one of the great democratic reforms of the last decade that allows citizens to make informed decisions, about how to advance voting rights and create a modern 21st-century democracy.