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Crowne Plaza Public meeting on Presidential Voting Rights referendum

22 September, 2019 - by Gerry Adams

Last Thursday evening in the Crowne Plaza a public meeting was held to discuss the proposed referendum on extending the franchise in Presidential elections.

Around 80 people attended the event which was chaired by Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú and was addressed by Mark Bassett, Barrister and lecturer in European Union Law; Laura Harmon, former President of the Union of Students in Ireland who was one of those who planned and organised the Together for Yes and Eighth Amendment referendum; and Colin Harvey, who is Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen’s University and is a fellow of the Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace.

Speaking after the event Cllr Ó Murchú welcomed the publication last week by the government of the ‘Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Presidential Elections) Bill 2019’. “The government must now move quickly to passing the legislation and setting a date for the referendum.”

Cllr Ó Murchú said:

“Sinn Féin has been campaigning for almost 20 years for a referendum to extend the vote in Presidential elections to Irish Citizens living in the North and in the diaspora. 

"In 2013 almost two thirds of those who took part in the Constitutional Convention supported the extension of Presidential voting rights to citizens living outside the state.

"In February An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted to hold the Presidential referendum in October. 

"His proposal was that all citizens, wherever they live in the world, 'will be entitled to register to vote for the next President.'

"It will be a postal ballot for those not living in the state and it would not be linked to a passport because there are citizens who do not have passports.

"He said: 'As a result it will be linked to citizenship'.

"Over 120 countries around the world, including many of our partners in the EU, allow their overseas non-resident citizens to vote in elections. This is seen as an issue of equality and inclusivity which benefits the State.

"Some of those who oppose the extension of the franchise claim that there should be ‘no representation without taxation.’

"In short, if you don’t pay taxes you shouldn’t be allowed to vote. This is a deeply flawed position.

"If followed through logically it would mean that pensioners, citizens on low incomes, parents who stay at home with their children, citizens with a disability, in fact anyone who doesn’t pay taxes for any reason should not have the right to vote.

"The Office of the President and the role of the Presidency in the day to day life of the Irish nation is hugely symbolic and important. 

"The referendum will provide us all with an historic opportunity to recognise the contribution Irish citizens make to our island’s society, economy and diverse culture.”

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