Kelly - It's time for action on Presidential voting rights
Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly today attended the launch of Ógra Shinn Féin's campaign to secure voting rights for Irish citizens in the Six Counties in this year's Presidential election campaign. Mr. Kelly said "the Irish government had stalled long enough. It is long past time that they bring forward the necessary legislation to allow Irish citizens in the Six Counties to vote in the 2004 Presidential election."
Mr. Kelly said:
"One of the most significant consequences of partition has been the effective disenfranchisement of the nationalist population living in the Six Counties.
"People in the Six Counties cannot vote for the President of Ireland; indeed, the current President, Mary McAleese, could not vote for herself. People in the Six Counties cannot vote on any proposed change in the constitution, which includes them. And they have not been afforded representation in the Dail, which frequently holds debates and takes decisions, which directly impact on their lives. Furthermore tens of thousands of people in the Six Counties elect their parliamentary representatives as Irish legislators and they are currently denied access to a parliamentary forum.
"For many years now Sinn Féin has been lobbying intensively for Northern participation in the political life of the nation. We raised the matter during the Good Friday Agreement discussions and following the signing of the Agreement the Taoiseach instructed the All-Party Committee on the Constitution to look into the various issues involved.
"It took the Committee from 1998 to 2002 to report on the issue and even their cautious recommendations recognised that the most obvious first step would be to extend voting rights in Presidential elections to all Irish citizens living on the island of Ireland. And several years on there has been no action from the Irish government.
"People from all over Ireland voted for the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish constitution was changed on the understanding that the Agreement would be implemented and change happen. The Irish government has failed to act on this issue for long enough. It is long past time that they bring forward the necessary legislation to allow Irish citizens in the Six Counties to vote in the 2004 Presidential election. It is an important part of the peace process and a natural outworking of the Good Friday Agreement.
"I want to commend Ógra Shinn Féin for launching this campaign and it will be getting the full backing of the party. And we will continue to campaign and negotiate until we secure:
* The right to vote in Presidential elections for citizens in the Six Counties
* Right of attendance at the Dáil for the 18 Westminster MPs elected in the Six Counties.
* Reform of the Seanad to include election by a national list system with people in the Six Counties having the right to vote." ENDS