“That this council supports the overwhelming vote by the Constitutional Convention in September 2013 in favour of extending the right to vote for the President of Ireland to citizens in the North of Ireland and the Diaspora, and calls on the Irish Government to now set a date for a referendum on the matter during this Dail term.”
The current president, like his immediate predecessors spoke and acted as a President for the whole island and we commend those efforts and look forward to them continuing.
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.
Giving people in the North the opportunity to vote in Presidential elections would truly result in a President For All.
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.
But 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.
As a result of the failed policies of austerity, growing numbers of Irish people have been forced to leave these shores in search of work and opportunities.
While we in Sinn Féin are working daily to create a better Ireland, north and south, with opportunities for our young people so they don’t feel that they have to leave, we do not feel that those who are currently in other countries should be disenfranchised.
The Irish abroad, whether they have been gone a matter of months in search of work, or whether they have been living abroad for 40 years, maintain a deeply rooted connection to Ireland and want to play a part in the life of the country.
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.
Therefore, I ask this council to support the motion in calling for the Irish Government to finally set a date for the referendum on this matter, during this Dail term.
We as Irish Citizens demand our voice to be heard and we demand the right to vote in the next presidential election.