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Adams seeks Presidential voting right for emigrants and citizens in North

11 March, 2015 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has called for an extension of voting rights in Presidential elections to Irish citizens abroad and in the North and for the voting age to be lowered to 16 years. Mr Adams accused the Government of ignoring the decision of the Constitutional Convention to do this.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening to a Sinn Féin Private Members Bill to put the issue to a referendum, Gerry Adams said:

“President Michael D Higgins and before him, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, spoke and acted as Presidents of all of this island. This is how they are regarded in the North too.”

“Former President McAleese, if she had still been living in her native Belfast at the time of her election, could not have voted for herself. That is illogical.”

“Sinn Féin isn’t just seeking voting rights for republicans or nationalists in the North. Unionists also deserve the opportunity, if they wish to exercise it, to elect the President.”

The Sinn Féin Leader said that emigration has been embraced as a policy choice by successive Irish Governments who have long viewed it as a safety valve against political radicalisation and a bulwark against demands for social change.”

“In 1987, Brian Lenihan Senior commented on the high rates of emigration of the 1980s dismissively saying that ‘we cannot all live on a small island’. This was also the attitude of successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led Governments to emigration, particularly after the economic collapse in 2008.”

“The argument put forward by successive governments for a failure to deliver on voting rights – that citizens abroad no longer have sufficient connections with their home country - is disgraceful and patently untrue.”

Most Irish emigrants retain close connections with this country and this of course will be attested to when various Ministers fly out from here to various parts of the world this weekend for St Patrick’s Day.”

He said a new generation of emigrants, including organisations such as 'We’re Coming Back'  are actively campaigning for voting rights for the Irish abroad.”

“More than 120 countries have legislated for their citizens living outside of the state to cast their vote. There has been an accelerating international trend towards allowing overseas citizens to vote.”

He said the Government Ministers would next week be highlighting its recently launched Diaspora policy this in various parts of the world but that the Government's refusal to hold a referendum on this issue is a slap in the face to all of those Irish citizens who want to contribute to the Irish nation.

Deputy Adams said:

“Sinn Féin favours a reserved Dáil constituency for citizens in the North and the Diaspora. This would allow the government to deal with voting rights with limited disruption to the current electoral system.”

“The Government should now drop all its lame excuses and deliver voting rights in Presidential elections for Irish emigrants, citizens in the North and those citizens aged 16 and upwards.”

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