Irish emigrants might be able to vote in the next presidential election

A referendum planned for 2017 could give voting right to thousands of citizens living abroad

USI, register to vote, students, campaign, Rock the Register, Kevin Donoghue

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Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh has announced plans for a referendum in 2017 that would give millions of Irish people living abroad a vote in the presidential election.

The move was announced at a special event in the Ugandan capital Kampala where the Minister was meeting with Irish citizens living in the country.

At present there are over 800,000 Irish people living overseas who have Irish passports. 120 countries in the world give their citizens abroad the right to vote, however only residents in Ireland are currently able to vote.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, a Fianna Fáil Senator and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Trade and the Diaspora Mark Daly said: "The most fundamental right of any citizen is the right and we must stop denying that right to so many millions of our citizens."

Senator Daly said that the announcement has been welcomed by all parties but added that there are still logistical concerns over "how to make it happen and whether or not it will happen for the next presidential election as it would require a vote and a change to the constitution."

He highlighted other issues such as extending the rights to other votes and time limits for those away.

Using the example of the presidential election, he said that if a limit of seven years was placed on a citizen once they left Ireland there would be a large possibility that they would never be able to vote in a presidential election as our Head of State can run for two terms without the need for a vote under certain conditions.

The subject of voting rights for citizens living abroad became an issue during the EU referendum in Britain last month.

Many British expats were upset that they were unable to have their say in a referendum that directly affected them, as citizens of the European Union.

Daly said the inclusion of votes in a referendum or general election would be a "step too far".

"The people who are most directly affected by a referendum are those within the state," he added.

The reaction has been mostly positive on Twitter:

Ironically, if the referendum was to take place in Ireland in 2017 on voting rights, the majority of those who would be directly affected by the result will be unable to vote.