It’s time to extend voting rights for the Presidential election to people living in Northern Ireland, says Fine Gael spokesman
People living in Northern Ireland should be allowed to vote in the upcoming Presidential elections, proposed Fine Gael spokesperson on Public Expenditure, Brian Hayes TD, during his address at the SDLP Conference in Belfast last Saturday.
"I want to make a specific proposal how we in the Republic might reach out to people in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Hayes. He said he was speaking in particular to the nationalist community, but not exclusively so.
“I believe we should extend the franchise for Presidential elections to the people of Northern Ireland. There is no constitutional impediment to doing so. The Presidential election is fixed in time well in advance.”
Mr Hayes envisaged that it would be relatively easy to implement via a postal ballot. He also said that the act of “electing a President who under the constitution is supposed to represent the Irish nation as against the Irish State” would be a “great symbolic gesture.”
It was Mr Hayes’ opinion that such a gesture would be “fully in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.”
“There are many unionists who also value their Irish identity and who might wish to participate in the Presidential election if the opportunity was given to them,” claimed Mr Hayes. To back up his views, he cited the Senate elections through Trinity College and NUI electoral panels.
"We are one year away from the next Presidential election. Extending voting rights to citizens in Northern Ireland should not be regarded as a dangerous proposal. The Agreement means that this generation of Irish people must be prepared to heal old wounds," concluded Mr Hayes.
The Epoch Times contacted the SDLP to ascertain their reaction to Mr Hayes' proposal.
The SDLP spokesman said: "The call for residents of the North to be allowed to vote has been a long-standing policy commitment of the SDLP.
"Our youth wing ‘SDLP Youth’ has in the past mounted demonstrations at the Dáil in support of this campaign.
"It is our position that anyone who is eligible to vote in the North should be allowed to cast a ballot in the race for Áras an Uachtáin. We believe this is in keeping with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and strengthens democracy across the island.
"It is ironic that our current President is from the North and therefore eligible to stand for the post, yet people living in that part of the island cannot vote in the election. We would like to see this rectified as soon as possible."
The Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, which is responsible for electoral process made the following statement: “In accordance with Irish electoral law, in order to be able to vote, a person’s name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides.
“Subject to this primary requirement, the person’s citizenship determines the polls at which he or she is entitled to vote. Irish citizens who are registered to vote may vote at all polls.
“While electoral law is subject to on-going review, there are no proposals currently to alter the existing arrangements.”