Northern Ireland news

Referendum on extending presidential voting rights planned for 2019

Proposals to allow Irish citizens living outside the Republic to vote in presidential elections are planned to go before the public in June 2019

A REFERENDUM in the Republic which could see people in the north become eligible to vote in presidential elections is to be held in 2019.

The Irish government has agreed a provisional timetable for a series of referendums over the next two years.

The most prominent is a vote on repealing the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution, which guarantees the equal right to life for the mother and the unborn.

It is set to be held next May or June and could pave the way for a relaxation of strict abortion laws.

A referendum on removing the offence of blasphemy and another on the constitution's references to "woman's life within the home" are planned for October 2018, while in 2019 there will be a vote on reducing to two years the time couples would have to live apart before getting a divorce.

Proposals to allow Irish people living outside the Republic to vote in presidential elections and to reduce the voting age to 16 are also planned for June 2019.

Around 3.5 million Irish citizens, including those in the north, live outside the state.

A constitutional convention voted in favour of extending voting rights to all Irish citizens in September 2013.

Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said his party had long campaigned for the change.

"An Taoiseach must ensure there is no further delay in bringing that referendum forward, he must act in the interest of all those who are Irish citizens and seek to engage with the democratic life of Ireland," he said.

"A basic tenet of any democracy is the right of citizens to vote."

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