Republic of Ireland news

Irish presidential voting referendum ‘won't take place in time for 2018 election'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

A REFERENDUM on whether to give millions of Irish living outside the Republic a vote in the next presidential election will not take place early next year as planned, the Taoiseach has said.

Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh had indicated earlier this year that the vote could take place in the first half of 2017.

It had been hoped it would happen in time for the 2018 presidential elections.

However, Enda Kenny told tjhe Dáil on Tuesday that although he was still committed to holding a referendum, officials were still looking at who should be included in a vote and the cost implications.

He said 3.5 million Irish citizens, including those in the north, live outside the state. A further 70 million people formed the Irish diaspora.

"Issues that need to be considered are whether all citizens outside the state have the right to vote in presidential elections, if they should be limited to a particular category, or if it should be citizens who have been absent from the state for a set period," he said.

"If so, what would be appropriate? Should it be citizens born on the island of Ireland only? Should it be passport holders only? The intention is that Northern Ireland citizens would be included here. It is a matter that would have to be looked at in the context of the Good Friday Agreement."

He said he did not think a vote would be possible before the next election.

"In respect of the 2018 election, the time would be very short to go through all of these considerable challenges, set it out and have it implemented."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said Mr Kenny's comments were "deeply disappointing".

"The right of citizens in the north to vote in presidential elections should not be dictated by how much it might cost," he said.

Mr Adams said a Constitutional Convention voted in favour of extending voting rights to Irish citizens in the north in September 2013.

"The diaspora is a fundamentally important part of the Irish nation, in both historical and contemporary terms. Extending voting rights and allowing the Irish diaspora to express their democratic voice is a sensible and inclusive action which would improve and strengthen our relationship with the diaspora," he said.

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