Jim Higgins MEP for Ireland North West has this week called on the Government to review the voting rules for Irish citizens living abroad, who lose the right to vote once they leave the Irish State. “The day you leave Ireland, you lose your right to vote in Irish elections. I think this is fundamentally wrong,” said Mr Higgins. All other EU states, bar Malta, make provision so that people living abroad can continue to vote for the government of their native land for a certain period of time after they leave. This will be especially prevalent come the referendum on Children’s Rights expected later this year.
The MEP has raised the matter with the European Commission as he believes it is an infringement on the rights of young people to move within the single markets. The Commission shares Mr Higgins’ concerns and in 2010 stated: “While organisation of national elections falls within the responsibilities of member states, if citizens cannot participate in electing member states’ government, nor in their member state of origin or the member state of residence, and thus are not represented in the Council of Ministers, these citizens cannot fully participate in the democratic life of the Union.”
The Commission announced in the EU Citizenship report 2010 that it would launch a discussion to identify political options to prevent EU citizens from losing their political rights, namely the right to vote in national elections, as a consequence of exercising their right to free movement.
“Sadly since 2010 the Commission has not done very much at all to advance the rights of EU citizens left without a vote,” said Mr Higgins.
“The concept of voting while abroad ensures that citizens maintain ties with their country of origin and boosts their feeling of belonging to a nation of which they are members regardless of geographical, economic, situation,” he added.
“Bad and all as the emigration situation is in Ireland, if we want to have any hope of attracting these young people back, we should at least give them the right to participate in Irish elections,” concluded the Fine Gael MEP.
If you are an Irish citizen living abroad you cannot be entered on the register of electors. This means that you cannot vote in an election or referendum here in Ireland (The only exception to this is in the case of Irish officials on duty abroad (and their spouses ) who may register on the postal voters list ).