Votes for the Irish Abroad

Ex-Taoiseach Enda Kenny in favour of extending the Presidential Vote to holders of a valid Irish passport living outside the State.

 

On the 30th of November 2017 at the University of Liverpool, the 10th Dr John Kennedy Lecture in Irish Studies was delivered by Enda Kenny TD. The ex-Taoiseach spoke at length on the pertinent subject of “Ireland – England’s place in the Europe of the Future”. Always someone who is approachable and who endeavours to be direct in his deliberations, he also hosted a Q and A afterwards at the Eleanor Rathbone Theatre on campus.

During the lecture and referencing the Brexit Referendum he spoke on how Ireland (a Constitutional Democracy) is used to referendums and spends a lot of research on ensuring the citizens “know what they are voting for”. In that vein as a long-term campaigner of voting rights; I asked “Should the pending referendum question on extending the vote in presidential elections to citizens outside the State – be for all citizens or for those who have lived some time in Ireland”?

Enda dealt with the issue of ‘connectivity with the State’ head on by posing an open question on what would be proof of qualification to vote? I replied “Having an Irish Passport”, he agreed that holders of a valid Irish passport should be a qualification for citizens living outside the State to vote in Irish presidential elections from 2015.

This would meet my concern on equality to include Irish people born outside the State.  A passport is tangible proof of Irish identity and that you inherited or sought Irish Citizenship. On a practical level it would make the process of voting and collating easier as you are already accounted for.

That same evening at Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin, speaking at an event for the Irish Abroad, the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins  referencing James Connolly (himself born into the Irish Diaspora),said  that Irishness is defined less in territory or geography but by Irish  people living out their identity wherever they live.

Referendum planned for June 2019

Therefore I would suggest the following referendum question

“Do you agree to extend the voting right in presidential elections to people outside the State who have a valid Irish Passport”?

 

Gerry Molumby

 

November 30th 2017

www.irelandanditsdiaspora.com

Enda Kenny gives John Kennedy Lecture Liverpool Irish Studies November 30th 2017 Gerry Mol - Copy

University of Liverpool, November 30th 2017

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Mary Hickman takes the debate to RTE

http://www.rte.ie/radio/utils/radioplayer/rteradioweb.html#!rii=b9%5F21266020%5F48%5F07%2D11%2D2017%5F

Minister tells me that referendum on votes for Irish Abroad to be held in June 2019

~ I appreciate John Paul Phelan’s reply, but there is no indication for more public consultation . Therefore the onus is on the Irish Abroad to lead and voice in the public domain their preferred option.  Choice seems to be 1. Votes for all Irish Citizens or  2. Irish people who have lived for some time in Ireland ~

 

My Letter indicating my preferred option 1. and Ministerial Response

 

 

 

An open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on   Votes for the Irish Abroad

 

Open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar August 2017 Gerry Molumby

August 8th 2017

 

An Toaiseach,

Firstly can I congratulate you on your recent appointment by Uachtarán na hÉireann.

I am sure you are aware of the ongoing campaign on votes for the Irish Abroad especially since the inception of the Constitutional Convention back 2012 to the announcement by your predecessor Enda Kenny TD in March (Philadelphia) this year, when he said “It is an opportunity for us to make our country stronger by allowing all of our citizens resident outside the State, including our emigrants, to vote in future presidential elections,” When in London as part of the Worldwide Gathering in 2013 on voting rights you said “This would recognise, respect and validate the ongoing ties between the diaspora and the country. This is not tokenism. The president is the embodiment of the spirit of the Irish nation”.

Following the Global Irish Civic Forum (May 2017), the reason I am writing to you is to offer the assistance of the Irish Diaspora in the final wording of the referendum question. Minister Coveney (now Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade) spoke with honesty about the history of referendums in Ireland and that “Irish people are cautious” and he rightly highlighted the issue of what he called “proof of connectivity” which he felt the electorate will expect in helping them decide.

The Options Paper’ with the 7 options was published prior to the forum and members of the Government present seemed to me, prior to discussion, to prefer option 2.

All citizens on the island of Ireland, and all citizens outside the island of Ireland for a period of time who have lived in the State;

I spoke from the floor in favour of Option 1) all citizens outside the State;

“Although a passport is clear evidence of citizenship it challenges my equality benchmark as people could establish their citizenship simply by an Irish Birth Certificate or certificate of a Foreign Birth Registration. Option 2 is limited as my son has never lived in Ireland ‘for a period’ of time but has an Irish passport and a firm and ongoing connection with Ireland its people and culture,”

My preferred wording still would be “Do you agree that Irish Citizens resident outside the State should have the right to vote in Presidential Elections”?

The more inclusive Option 1 was taken up by my colleague  Mary Hickman (Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad) when she said in Dublin   “ most campaigners want all citizens to be allowed to vote for the president, with no restriction on the time they have been abroad or whether they have lived here”.

Therefore I would offer the collaboration of Ireland and its Diaspora blog, contacts and fellow campaigners here in the UK to host engagement events/circulations/surveys etc.  and help the Irish Abroad Unit in any way in the collation of the preferred wording for the pending referendum.

Is Mise,

 

Letter from Minister for Local Government and Electoral Reforem 26 October 2017 Paul Phelan.jpg

Letter from Minister John Paul Phelan October 27th 2017

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Referendum on Votes for Irish Abroad to be held in summer 2019 ~ Taoiseach announcement .

Government Sets Indicative Timetable For Referendums

The Government today, 26th September 2017, agreed an indicative timetable for a number of referendums on constitutional amendments and reforms to local government, arising from the work of the Citizens’ Assembly, the Convention on the Constitution, and the Programme for a Partnership Government:

  • · Referendum on the Eighth amendment – May or June 2018
  • · Referendums on Blasphemy (Article 40.6.1) and “Woman’s life within the home” (Article 41.2.1) – October 2018
  • · Plebiscite on directly elected executive mayors – October 2018
  • · Referendums on Divorce, Extending the Franchise at Presidential Elections to Irish Citizens Resident outside the State, and Reducing the voting age to 16, – June 2019

Each referendum will be subject to passage of Bills by the Houses of the Oireachtas and formal confirmation of the polling date.

The Taoiseach said:

Any amendment to our Constitution requires careful consideration by the people. They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate. Setting a timetable for the referendums to be held over the next two years will allow all involved in campaigning on the issues to plan ahead and to facilitate that public debate.

The Citizens’ Assembly report on the on the Eighth amendment of the Constitution is currently being considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee which is expected to report before the end of the year. A Bill to amend the Constitution will be prepared in light of the Committee’s report, and subject to its passage by the Houses of the Oireachtas, a referendum will be held in May or June of 2018.

The Government is committed to holding constitutional referendums on Article 41.2.1, regarding a woman’s life within the home, and Article 40.6.1, on the offence of blasphemy – both arising from recommendations made by the Convention on the Constitution and included in the Programme for Government.

In March 2017 the Government approved in principle the holding of a referendum to give citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections also on foot of a recommendation from the Convention on the Constitution. The Convention also recommended a referendum on reducing the voting age to 16.

Reforms to local government including the direct election of city Mayors arise from the Programme for Government.

The Government decided on 4 April 2017 to support a Private Members’ Bill from Deputy Josepha Madigan to reduce the length of the period or periods for which a couple must live apart before they can obtain a divorce.

The Government has deferred making a decision on the timing of a referendum on Ireland’s participation in the Unified Patent Court.

The Government is also still considering the holding of a referendum on keeping Irish Water in public ownership.

The referendums to be held in October 2018 could be held on the same date as a presidential election if one is held.

It is proposed that the June 2019 referendums would be held on the same day as the local and European elections.

The Taoiseach will meet the leaders of the main parties to discuss the plans for referendums.

An open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on   Votes for the Irish Abroad

 

Open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar August 2017 Gerry Molumby

August 8th 2017

 

An Toaiseach,

Firstly can I congratulate you on your recent appointment by Uachtarán na hÉireann.

I am sure you are aware of the ongoing campaign on votes for the Irish Abroad especially since the inception of the Constitutional Convention back 2012 to the announcement by your predecessor Enda Kenny TD in March (Philadelphia) this year, when he said “It is an opportunity for us to make our country stronger by allowing all of our citizens resident outside the State, including our emigrants, to vote in future presidential elections,” When in London as part of the Worldwide Gathering in 2013 on voting rights you said “This would recognise, respect and validate the ongoing ties between the diaspora and the country. This is not tokenism. The president is the embodiment of the spirit of the Irish nation”.

Following the Global Irish Civic Forum (May 2017), the reason I am writing to you is to offer the assistance of the Irish Diaspora in the final wording of the referendum question. Minister Coveney (now Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade) spoke with honesty about the history of referendums in Ireland and that “Irish people are cautious” and he rightly highlighted the issue of what he called “proof of connectivity” which he felt the electorate will expect in helping them decide.

The Options Paper’ with the 7 options was published prior to the forum and members of the Government present seemed to me, prior to discussion, to prefer option 2.

All citizens on the island of Ireland, and all citizens outside the island of Ireland for a period of time who have lived in the State;

I spoke from the floor in favour of Option 1) all citizens outside the State;

“Although a passport is clear evidence of citizenship it challenges my equality benchmark as people could establish their citizenship simply by an Irish Birth Certificate or certificate of a Foreign Birth Registration. Option 2 is limited as my son has never lived in Ireland ‘for a period’ of time but has an Irish passport and a firm and ongoing connection with Ireland its people and culture,”

My preferred wording still would be “Do you agree that Irish Citizens resident outside the State should have the right to vote in Presidential Elections”?

The more inclusive Option 1 was taken up by my colleague  Mary Hickman (Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad) when she said in Dublin   “ most campaigners want all citizens to be allowed to vote for the president, with no restriction on the time they have been abroad or whether they have lived here”.

Therefore I would offer the collaboration of Ireland and its Diaspora blog, contacts and fellow campaigners here in the UK to host engagement events/circulations/surveys etc.  and help the Irish Abroad Unit in any way in the collation of the preferred wording for the pending referendum.

Is Mise,

 

Gerry Molumby

 

 

 

 

 

Do you agree that Irish Citizens resident outside the State should have the right to vote in Presidential Elections. Global Irish Civic Forum 2017. Gerry Molumby

 

 

Lobbying Taoiseach Enda Kenny on a visit to the UK Gerry Molumby

Lobbying  Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD on a visit to the House of Commons March 2014

(Picture Malcolm McNally Irish Post UK) 

Minister Simon Coveney calls for help with definition of ‘connectivity’ and further consultation with the Irish Abroad as he prepares the wording for the Presidential Votes Referendum.

From Global Irish Civic Forum at Dublin Caste (May 4/5 2017) – Gerry Molumby

One of the central and well anticipated plenary sessions was the  panel discussion on ‘Voting Rights in Presidential Elections’. This was the first time in the history of Ireland that Irish citizens living outside the State are potentially to be brought into the centre of Ireland’s Democracy.

Global Irish Civic Forum May 5 and 6 2017 Gerry Molumby (5).JPG

(Gerry Molumby Photographer) 

There were over 200 people in the hall and the panel consisted  of Ministers Simon Coveney (Housing, Planning Community and Local Government) and Joe McHugh (Diaspora and International Affairs). The chairperson was Dearbhail Mc Donald (Group Business Editor, Irish News and Media). A background to the feasibility and options was given by Dr. Iseult Honohan (University College Dublin). Final panellist Senator Billy Lawless, who is based in Chicago, cut to the chase and recommended Option 2.

All citizens on the island of Ireland, and all citizens outside the island of Ireland for a period of time who have lived in the State;

As a Fine Gael Senator his preference hardly came as a surprise to the two ministers present and appeared to me to be the current favoured option of the Government. Minister Simon Coveney spoke with honesty about the history of Referendums in Ireland and that “Irish people are cautious” and I welcomed his invitation to the global Irish to engage further with him though the Irish Abroad Unit and other means in order to offer concise wording to the Irish Electorate in this question. He spoke in  the Q and A part on the point made earlier by Dr Honohan  on the need to incorporate the fact that  people eligible  as citizens outside the State may lack a genuine connection and he seemed to favour proof of connectivity to Ireland to Ireland which every citizen would not necessarily have.

I spoke from the floor in favour of Option 1) all citizens outside the State;

“Although a passport is clear evidence of citizenship it challenges my equality benchmark as people could establish their citizenship simply by an Irish Birth Certificate or certificate of a Foreign Birth Registration. Option 2 is limited as my son has never lived in Ireland ‘for a period’ of time but has an Irish passport and a firm and ongoing connection with Ireland its people and culture. Also I would prefer that if the right to vote in presidential elections is given that there be an onus on citizens to exercise that by opting in to register. ” – Gerry Molumby

The more inclusive Option 1 was taken up by Mary Hickman (Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad) when she said  “ most campaigners want all citizens to be allowed to vote for the president, with no restriction on the time they have been abroad or whether they have lived here”.

‘Home to Vote’ was mention throughout the days in Dublin, not sure if there will be the mobilisation for recent left emigrants to do same for the presidential vote? The marriage equality was a generational shift of maturity with young people coming home to support family members and friends in this equality issue. Voting for the Irish Abroad is not a ‘big issue’ as yet in Ireland and if the referendum is held the same day as the  Referendum on the 8th Amendment ?, the abortion debate will dominate the news in advance .

Global Irish Civic Forum May 5 and 6 2017 Gerry Molumby (1).JPG

Delegates from Coventry (Gerry Molumby Photographer) 

The two day conference was slickly organised and the various workshops were well moderated, staff at the Irish Abroad Unit acquitted themselves well in their preparation and professionalism. Their gift of the booklet on good and effective use of social media was a useful ‘take away’.  Catering staff and lunch were great each day!

Other  topics up for discussion at Dublin Castle on May 5th  and 6th,  were the implementation of the Government’s diaspora policy, Irish organisations governance , fundraising, moving back to Ireland ,use of social media , culture (Creative Ireland), mental health . I particularly liked the presentation on the art included in our passports and how to apply for the new passport card.

The networking with Irish organisations throughout the world was a special experience of our days in Dublin and I welcome the promise of the Global Irish Hub to facilitate us continuing to network away from Baile Átha Cliath.

You can read my submission to the Global Irish Civic Forum here –

https://irelandanditsdiaspora.com/votes-for-the-irish-abroad/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/triskellion_uk/albums/72157681837145640

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BACKGROUND 

I personally instituted a worldwide survey to the Irish Abroad and got 87 responses most of which came from the UK and the findings were .

Answer Choices – Responses –

Dáil 71.43%
60

Seanad 69.05%
58

Presidency 82.14%
69

Irish Citizens abroad should not have a vote to Ireland’s Oireachtas 15.48%
13

Don’t know 2.38%
2
Total Respondents: 84

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Y8CFXL5 The survey is now closed but you can at least read the questions and the background. The full survey and geographical and personal submissions is available on request.

In essence the majority of Irish people abroad would particularly like a vote in pending presidential elections.

Gerry Molumby
Nottingham
November 20th 2016

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Referendum on voting rights for the Irish abroad planned for ASAP

(Personal promise given to me by Joe McHugh, Teachta Dála ,Minister for the Diaspora and Overseas Development)

Joe McHugh 2016.jpg

Following a direct question to the Minister I got a direct response and promise “that the priority for the government was to give Irish emigrants the right to vote in presidential elections”. This was part of a Q and A session at Camden Town Hall July 15th as part of the minister’s first visit abroad since obtaining his seal of office. He went on to tell me “We are driving the issue hard and the Taoiseach is very interested in it”. Speaking later at the Irish Embassy we exchanged cards and I told the minister I would endeavour to be at the Global Civic Forum next year to move the whole debate and logistics forward to the benefit of the Irish Nation worldwide.

 

Gerry Molumby

Votes for the Irish Abroad Campaigner

Cherishing all the children of the nation equally

Thurles and Dublin All Ireland 2015 Gerry Molumby (227)

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http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/generation-emigration/it-s-time-in-2016-to-grant-irish-abroad-the-right-to-vote-1.2488513

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Open letter to all the leaders of Ireland’s political parties

~ Votes for the Irish Abroad

~ Inclusion in your manifesto ~ General Election 2016

November 5th 2015

Dear

I would be the first to acknowledge the increased efforts of recent Irish Governments to further engage with and support financially Irish Abroad agencies and people.

The one outstanding issue is full voting rights inclusion in Ireland’s democracy.

Background:

Since the first muting by the Fine Gael and Labour coalition back in 2011 and the inclusion in the programme for government of a Constitutional Convention, I have been a keen activist on votes for the Irish Abroad; lobbying members of the Oireachtas and encouraging the Irish Abroad to engage with the Convention. When the Convention was completed, in 2013, it recommended by 79% extending the franchise to Irish citizens abroad to vote in future Presidential Elections. Despite its own time frame the government decided not to complete by referendum this recommendation. This carousel that has been going round and round since the early 1990, with every party , in opposition or making pre-election statements of Irish Abroad representation but no party delivering yet thirty years on.There will be ‘more of the same’ in the next weeks and months with the pending general election; but potentially a bit more substantial hopefully following the most recent debate in the Dáil ,on October 23rd resulted in the house accepting the principle ~ voting rights should be extended to Irish citizens abroad .

“The blips in the 1970 when more people returned than left and the current strive on job creation are noble; but our history is one of endemic and continuous emigration. The Irish Abroad therefore should have a vote in the appointments to the Dáil, Seanad and Presidency  ” . (Gerry Molumby)

Proposal:

I propose therefore that the only way (as carried out by many other European countries) to end the disenfranchisement of Irish citizens/passport holders overseas is to set up designated constituencies worldwide for representation to the Dáil, Seanad and voting for the Presidency. I am defining an Irish citizen as anyone who holds an Irish passport as their source of national and ethnic identity. I am not in favour of setting a time limit to Irish citizenship, how can you have a watered down ‘My Wadi’ type of Irishness. The Irish people who left Ireland in the 1950, their children and grandchildren (if they choose citizenship) are as Irish as the newly arrived in London or Boston today. Irish citizenship does not have geographical boundaries and must include people living in the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland. The pro-rata numeric balance with residents living in Ireland is achievable in designated constituencies, modelled on other European countries and an ‘Irish solution to an Irish problem’. The Report of the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs on Voting Rights of Irish Citizens Abroad presented to the Dáil on October 23rd recommended the setting up of an Electoral Commission and I would suggest that the format of designated  constituencies should be their priority.

The ‘apolitical’ office of Uachtaráin na hEireann has changed greatly since the election of ‘the two Marys’ and their focus on Diaspora and worldwide issues. Just look at the role they and the Irish Americans played in the peace process and currently Michael D Higgins as one of the United Nations ‘Gender Ambassadors’. President Higgins said in June 2015 “Emigration is, at its root, an experience that is intensely personal”. You do not become less Irish by emigrating but in many ways becomes more focused on Ireland’s wellbeing. For my case here in the UK I feel as much an Irishman today as I did in 1980. That is the reason why, until I have a say in my homeland’s development, I will not feel fully cherished, as promised in the Proclamation of 1916.

Therefore as we are in the season of  a pending election campaign ! Can I ask request that you set our clearly your party’s  position and direction on votes for the Irish Abroad and your response to by views above ? President Higgins accepted my invitation and others  to  visit Britain as part of his presidency campaign and I would like to extend to you an invitation to debate in the UK (I am part of  a  network and could convene a series of public meetings with the Irish voluntary, sporting, cultural and business sectors) your party’s position on issues of concern to the Irish Abroad.

In conclusion, can I wish you and your party  a Happy Christmas and well in the election of 2016,  a year which will be a great time and anniversary to be Irish at home and abroad.

Is Mise,

Gerry Molumby

In the words of Seamus Heaney ” Be advised my passport’s green”

Image result for old green irish passport

 

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OECD weighs in: emigrant vote would benefit Ireland, citizens abroad

GlobalIrish.ie reported that the OECD is the latest international body to weigh in on Ireland’s disenfranchisement of its citizens abroad. In their latest economic survey, the organisation says that Ireland is out of step with the rest of Europe, and both citizens and the nation are missing out:

(Picture President Higgins does walk about during his visit to the birthplace of William Shakespere on 11th April 2014)

President did a walk about in Stratford upon Avon and met Cormac wearing his Tipperary jersey .Gerry Molumby

“One aspect with significant room for improvement concerns emigrant’s political representation and right to vote in Irish elections. Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe not to offer some form of suffrage to its citizens who live abroad (Honohan, 2011). The vast majority of countries have electoral systems allowing emigrants to participate in some ways in elections. Voting can allow states to build and retain highly productive connections with diaspora groups (Collier and Vathi, 2007). Political participation is positively associated with well–being (Frey et al., 2008 and Blais and Gelineau, 2007). Thus, civil and political engagement is one of the building blocks of the OECD’s Better Life index. Allowing for the participating of Irish emigrants in domestic electoral process would reinforce their attachment to Ireland, would bolster the linkages that Ireland has been successfully building over the years and would make a positive contribution to emigrant’s well–being.”

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When I founded Triskellion Irish Theatre and Concert Productions in 1994 I used the mission statement of ‘Ireland and its diaspora’, it was incorporated into our logo with the harp of Ireland being pages of a script and the TTC (Triskellion Theatre Company ) forming the strings in the Brian Boru harp.

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