Fianna Fáil is proposing to give Irish citizens living overseas the right to vote in elections for the office of President and Seanad Éireann.

The party’s Spokesperson for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora Senator Mark Daly is detailing the reforms ahead of St. Patrick’s celebrations this week.

Senator Daly says “Ireland has a huge responsibility to our citizens living in other countries and Fianna Fáil believes we must maintain strong ties with the Irish living abroad while strengthening ties with the countries and communities they live in.”

There are approximately 70 million people of Irish heritage living overseas as well as 1.2 million Irish-born citizens living in other countries across the world.

According to the OECD, Ireland now has the highest share of nationals living abroad in the OECD countries.  More than 17% of Irish-born persons aged 15 and over lives overseas.

Speaking as the party publishes its ‘Policy proposal for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora’, Senator Daly has said: “The global Irish footprint continues to grow and a key priority for us now is to pursue reforms that include extending voting rights to citizens living outside of the State.  Ireland is entering the era of new politics, marked by new possibilities.  We should be taking this opportunity to embrace change.

“In order to fulfil the democratic aspirations of all our people we must allow all Irish citizens the right to vote in our presidential elections including Irish citizens in the North.  There are other European examples of parliamentary representation for citizens living outside of the State and a reformed Seanad should extend the right to vote to Irish citizens abroad.  For example in Portugal where 20% of the electorate live overseas, its citizens living abroad can vote in the Assembly of the Republic elections for a set number of seats.  The French Senate also has a set number of positions for election by French nationals living outside of the state.

“If we’re serious about political reform here at home we must recognise that the global Irish community can have an important input into maintaining our democracy.  Aside from extending voting rights I believe we should examine initiatives such as the establishment of an ‘Irish Card’ which would provide benefits such as scholarships for international students and visa-free travel for business and tourism; a specific educational level travel programme to bring young people with Irish heritage to the country to experience our culture, history, and environment; and efforts to promote Irish educational institutes abroad by increasing access to third-level for passport holders and the Diaspora.

“This week countries all over the world will celebrate our national holiday.  Festivals, community events and political partnerships held around St. Patrick’s Day offer a unique opportunity for Ireland to showcase the country, our history, heritage and culture.  Not only is this important from a business perspective in promoting Ireland it is important to all Irish citizens living abroad to recognise them as a continued extension of Ireland.  Giving those citizens a say in the future direction of the country would send a strong message of inclusion, that they can still have an impact on the future of the country so many millions still call home.”

Policy proposal for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora