Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy has welcomed the announcement that the Government has agreed to hold a referendum which will allow Irish citizens in the North and overseas the right to vote in Presidential elections.
The Taoiseach’s announcement is very welcome, but the Government needs to quickly clarify what this means in practice and when the referendum will be held.
The office of the President is regarded as being one for everyone, and that is how it is regarded here in the North also, particularly among Nationalists and Republicans.
We have already had the ridiculous situation where a former President, Mary McAlesse, had she still been living in Belfast, would not have been able to vote for herself.
This needs to change.
We are not just seeking voting rights in presidential elections for nationalists in the North, but for people of all communities. Everyone on the island of Ireland deserves the opportunity to be able to vote for the President.
This also goes beyond the rights of people living in the North; Sinn Fein is also seeking the extension of Presidential voting rights to Irish citizens living abroad.
The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that take place in virtually every country in the world prove this.
Organisations working with the Irish communities overseas are actively campaigning for voting rights. Allowing people overseas to vote in elections in their own countries is not a new idea. More than 120 countries have already legislated to allow their citizens living outside the state to vote – we need to do the same.
Sinn Féin believes in extending the vote to allow more people to participate in the democratic process. We want voting rights extended to people living in the North, to Irish communities living abroad, and to 16 year olds.