Northern Ireland news

Irish citizens in north may not be allowed to vote in united Ireland poll

It has been claimed Irish citizens in the north would not be able to vote in a united Ireland poll. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Connla Young

The British government’s understanding of the Good Friday Agreement has been questioned amid claims Irish citizens living in the north may not be allowed to vote in a future Irish unity referendum.

Such a poll can only be triggered by a Secretary of State.

However, a campaign group has said that a recent response to a parliamentary question by Secretary of State Karen Bradley suggests that Irish citizens may not be allowed to take part in such a vote.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley

Ms Bradley confirmed that people who consider themselves Irish are not allowed to vote in British referendums

Under current arrangements voting rights of Irish and British people living in each other’s jurisdiction are reciprocal but only extend to local and parliamentary elections.

Read More: Only a third of voters in Britain want north to remain in Union

MP for St Helens North, Conor McGinn, who is originally from Co Armagh, had asked Ms Bradley “for what reasons the reciprocal voting rights of Irish citizens do not cover referendums”.

In response Ms Bradley said that British citizens may vote in local and parliamentary elections in Ireland but not presidential polls or referendums.

“This reciprocal right is reflected in the voting rights of Irish citizens living in the United Kingdom,” she said.

Allison Morris: More to Irish unity than a 'Brits out' border poll

The Home Office has previously said it views people born in the north as British, a position some believe is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement, which says people have the right to be Irish or British.

A spokeswoman for the British government last night said: "The rules surrounding any referendum are set in legislation specific to that poll, as happened in 2016.

“Any decisions on a border poll would be made in line with the Belfast Agreement."

Irish and Commonwealth citizens were allowed to vote in the EU referendum.

Brian Feeney: A border poll is inevitable, it is just a question of when

Deputy Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice Daniel Holder said: “Karen Bradley in her remarkable response is implying that only Irish citizens in the north who are also British citizens would have a right to vote in referendums, including a border poll,” he said.

“The lack of any understanding of the GFA among the current government is getting beyond a joke.”

CAJ Deputy Director Daniel Holder

Solicitor Niall Murphy, whole helped organise Brexit conference in Belfast earlier this year, said:”It’s unthinkable that all Irish citizens in the north would not get a vote in a border poll bearing in mind that Irish citizens did have a right to vote in the Brexit referendum."

Solicitor Niall Murphy

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