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Adams calls for broad based campaign to win Referendum on right to vote in Presidential elections

2 August, 2018 - by Gerry Adams TD

Louth TD Gerry Adams writing in his weekly column in the Andersonstown News and his online blog has urged the widest possible support for a campaign to win the referendum on voting rights in Presidential elections which is planned for next May.

The former Sinn Féin leader said:

“In recent years, two referendums in the south have attracted huge public interest and international attention. In May 2015, there was the successful referendum on marriage equality. In May of this year, there was the equally successful Yes vote on repealing the eighth amendment of the Constitution.  Both achieved massive public support and reflected an overwhelming desire for real and positive change.

“Next May, there will be another equally crucial referendum vote with profound implications for the future political, democratic and social evolution of the island of Ireland. The Taoiseach has announced that there will be a referendum on the right of Irish citizens living in the north and in the diaspora to vote in Presidential elections on May 24th.

“This vote takes on ever greater importance in the context of Brexit. By then, if the timetable for the Brexit negotiations is held to, Britain will have left the EU and the north may well have been dragged out also. What form Brexit will take is impossible to say at this time given the civil war taking place within the British Tory party and the confusion surrounding the negotiations.

“It is therefore important that all of us who are for greater democracy, accountability, equality and inclusiveness on the island of Ireland, actively campaign in support of Irish citizens in the north having the right to vote in future elections for the President of Ireland.

“All of us who favour such a positive and historically important step forward have to plan now for the referendum. We have to plan to win. Like the other recent referendums, a successful campaign cannot be limited to political parties.

“To succeed, it will necessitate the widest possible public support and activism. It will require the creation of a broad based campaign, representative of society, and rooted in every community within the 26 counties. Every organisation with any semblance of national identity from the GAA and other sports bodies, to cultural, language, music, trade unions, farming, and community based organisations must be encouraged to campaign for the extension of the franchise in Presidential elections. It will also need the positive participation of civic society and political and community activists from the north and from within the diaspora. 

“The political debate that will be generated by this referendum will also provide an opportunity to engage with our unionist neighbours about the future. We need to advocate the merits of a new dispensation in which they can vote for the President of Ireland and eventually for a successful referendum on Irish unity. 

“As the island of Ireland looks beyond the centenary of partition and seeks to face the political, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century, the referendum in May 2019 is an opportunity embrace a new future. To discuss what a shared Ireland might look like. And to claim our vote in the Presidential elections. That is a goal worth working for.”

Note: The Constitutional Convention voted overwhelmingly in September 2013 in favour of citizens in the north and in the diaspora having the right to vote in Presidential elections.

The members of the Convention were asked to vote on several propositions: ‘Should citizens resident outside the State have the right to vote in Presidential elections?’ Seventy-eight percent of the 100 members of the Convention voted yes.

Delegates were then asked: ‘Should citizens resident in Northern Ireland have the right to vote in Presidential election?’ Seventy-three percent voted yes.

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