Tá nó Níl: The pros and cons of Irish voting abroad

A referendum is to be held on the issue

Tá nó Níl: The pros and cons of Irish voting abroad

A referendum ballot paper from 2012 | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Government is to hold a referendum on whether or not to grant Irish people abroad the right to vote in presidential elections.

If passed, it would see Irish citizens resident outside the State - including Northern Ireland - casting ballots.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "The extension of the franchise will require modernisation of the voter registration process and the introduction of arrangements to facilitate citizens to exercise their franchise from outside the State.

"The Government has agreed that important work will now commence on modernisation of the voter registration process to effect improvements in the registration of voters."

Such a move would also bring Ireland in line with the majority of countries around the world who provide for voting by citizens resident outside the State.

The Government will publish a detailed Options Paper later this month to set out the range of options available.

But Newstalk Breakfast asked should Irish citizens who do not live in Ireland be given the right to vote?

Larry Donnelly is a law lecturer at NUI Galway.

"I think its long overdue - for far too long there's been a lot of lip service paid to the Diaspora and to emigrants who left this country - many times because they had no other choice.

"The office of president is an ideal place for emigrants to have a say, because the president is somebody who represents Ireland on the global stage.

"The bottom line...is that nationality isn't confined to where you are - this is a global world now.

"Irish people are all over the world now, and just because they're in other places doesn't make them any less Irish. They're entitled to a say on this".

File photo | Image: Rollingnews.ie

While current affairs commentator, Keith Mills, disagrees.

"I think this is an absolute lunacy by Enda Kenny - I think it's a pure diversion tactic to stop him talking about going to meet a man later this week who he described as dangerous and racist.

"It's just a smokescreen - this a poor idea and it's badly thought out.

"There's about 3.6 million people who they've identified who'll probably be entitled to vote - we only have, in this country, 3.2 million who are entitled to vote, so we're going to be outnumbered.

"A crazy situation where the people who are actually paying for the presidency and who know the people involved will be outnumbered by people who are not paying for the presidency and who won't know the people who are running for the presidency."

But Mr Donnelly says not everyone who can vote will vote: "The vast majority of other countries around the world allow emigrants to vote, and the reality is that their participation rates are low.

"But the reality is people who want to have a say, why should they be denied that say?".

In reply, Mr Mills says: "We have never opened up this franchise before, so there's no evidence to prove this at all.

"Irish citizenship is available to anybody: all you need is one Irish grandparent.

"So you don't have any tangible, strong link with the country, you won't know the people who are standing for election."

But Mr Donnelly says Mr Mills is taking an extreme example.

"Let's look at somebody whose been forced to leave this country in the past three or four years because of economic circumstances, and they're gone yet all their family are here, their interests are here, often times they own property here, they pay taxes here - and they're denied the right to vote", Mr Donnelly added.

In a snap Twitter poll of Newstalk Breakfast listeners, 47% say they would reject the proposal, 45% said they would support it, with 8% undecided.