A Mullingar councillor who has two sons in Canada says it’s not good enough that Irish people living abroad cannot vote in local and national elections.
Cllr Bill Collentine’s motion at Mullingar Town Council’s March meeting this week was warmly welcomed by many of his colleagues, and a letter will now be sent to the Minister for the Environment to push for change.
Cllr Collentine said that up to half of the people who leave Ireland return and set up businesses and take up jobs.
He said it’s only right that they have a right to be involved in who leads the country, especially when this is the norm in many other European countries including the UK, which he said allows its citizens to vote for up to 15 years after they move away.
“A lot who left contributed a lot before they left,” he said, lending his support to what he said were campaigns in Irish clubs in major cities to give the diaspora the right to vote.
He said he would have loved the chance to vote when he was living in Canada and that his two sons don’t understand why they don’t have the opportunity today.
He proposed putting in a submission to Government and urging other local authorities to do the same.
Cllr Aidan Davitt agreed that people who leave should have the opportunity to have their say, and Cllr Glynn, whose brother lives in Madrid, said that sometimes people who live abroad are more informed about what is happening in Ireland than people living here.
“They want to be part of the electorate, they are on Irish websites and follow local papers,” he said, adding that they are proud of Ireland.
This was also the view of Cllr Ruth Illingworth, who recalled queues around the French embassy in London as French nationals waited to vote in their national election.
“It’s not like the days when people went to America and we never saw them again,” she said, agreeing that many emigrants return.
She suggested that this could be done through the Irish consulates, but also claimed that those who are out of the country for more than 10 years should seek citizenship in their new home.
It was the view of Cllr Gerry Sheridan that the issue be considered by the Constitutional Convention.