The government launched its new diaspora policy last week – Global Irish – in which it applauded itself on its diaspora policy. Lots of warm words waft throughout the 57-page glossy document. But buried in the detail is a confirmation (on p. 21) that the government has chosen to ignore the recommendation of the Irish Constitutional Convention (ICC), which at its meeting in September 2013 proposed that emigrants and residents in Northern Ireland be given the right to vote in presidential elections (see here).
On its establishment of the ICC, the government committed to responding to its reports by way of ministerial statement to the Dáil within four months of receipt of a report. In this case, that deadline was missed and the Dáil debate never happened. Instead, we’re now told in the government’s new glossy report that:
An extension of voting rights to Irish citizens outside the State would be … challenging to introduce and to manage. A range of issues would arise in this context, including policy, legal and practical issues. For example, a key policy issue is the precise eligibility for any extended franchise. Ireland has a large number of citizens resident outside the State and generous conditions for passing that citizenship down through the generations, including to those who have never visited or engaged with Ireland. There are also significant practical issues which must be given due consideration.
The government has decided, therefore, that the matter is to be given to ‘the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, in cooperation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Diaspora Affairs to analyse the policy, legal and practical issues arising and to report back to Government’.
Why has the government not at least allowed the Dáil to debate the merits of the ICC recommendation, as had been promised? Why have they not given the members of the ICC the courtesy of hearing their hard work deliberating on this matter discussed in the national parliament, as had been promised? Why are the diaspora yet again fobbed off with patronizing pats on the head and references to matters of complexity? And why is the debate – agonizing stilted as it is – solely on presidential elections rather than on the election that really matters?
Yet another nail in the ‘democratic revolution’ coffin of this administration.