Republic of Ireland news

Referendum on Irish voting rights to be held next year

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile. Picture by Philip Walsh

A REFERENDUM on whether to give millions of Irish living abroad a vote in the next presidential election is due to take place next year.

Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh said the referendum is being planned for the first half of 2017.

Mr McHugh told the Irish Independent that proposals on a referendum would be put before the Global Civic Forum next February, with a vote due to take place several months later.

He said the issue was discussed at the inter departmental working group on diaspora affairs.

"We received a presentation last Wednesday from officials," he said. "We still need to figure out a proper time frame as to how this works but my aim is to have a vote next year."

"We are driving the issue hard and the taoiseach is very interested in it. There is an impatience on his part and his view is even to have to wait six months from now is too long. The Civic Forum in February is a place where we will have something real and tangible to present which will then go to cabinet."

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile, from the Short Strand area of east Belfast, said news of the referendum was a "positive development".

"It is only right that we further enfranchise our Irish citizens overseas and that we work to ensure they retain a tangible link with politics and developments at home," the Sinn Féin politician said.

He said people in the north should also be given voting rights in the presidential election.

"This core right must be extended to Irish citizens who are living in every part of Ireland," he said.

"There is widespread support for this move, not least from the Constitutional Convention.

"The Office of Uachtarán is a hugely symbolic one and it defies logic that someone from the north can become uachtarán but not be entitled to vote for themselves."

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