Government report on the diaspora snubs the diaspora, the Dáil and the Irish Constitutional Convention

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.

6 thoughts on “Government report on the diaspora snubs the diaspora, the Dáil and the Irish Constitutional Convention

  1. “Why has the government not at least allowed the Dáil to debate the merits of the ICC recommendation, as had been promised?”

    This sentence says an awful lot about everything that is not-fit-for-purpose with our way of governing ourselves.
    The Dáil is not independent of the Government. It cannot act as a part of the checks and balances on the powerful, because the Government is in, of and from the Dáil. Unless the Government controls the Dáil, it ceases to the Government.

    Any self-respecting Dáil would do what David Farrell has suggested – regardless of what the Government wanted. In short, TDs would use the power which we delegate to them to act independentaly of the Government. The Government’s legitimacy is derived solely from TDs, who we elect directly.

    Initially, the Constitutional Convention showed some recognition of this when it voted in favour of external Ministers and also people have the right to initiate referendums on both the Constitution and ordinary legislation. These topics were not on the terms of reference for the Convention, but emerged during the Convention’s review of the Dáil electoral system

    Later, the Constitutional did not follow this initial drive when it considered Dáil Reform.
    The Convention completely eschewed the opportunity to investigate the issues involved in David Farrell’s question. The one weekend session was almost completely focused on non-constitutional changes to how the Dáil goes about its business ie, mostly faffing around Dáil Standing Orders. One can imagine how this happened.

    One citizen member of the Convention pointed this out. Just before the weekend meeting concluded around midday on Sunday 2nd Feb 2014, Martina O’Connell (one of the 66 citizens chosen by a polling company as a citizen member of the Convention) said that her “concern is in relation to the actual Constitution. A lot of the topics that we have discussed over this weekend, I am not sure of their particular constitutional relevance…I am just wondering how we would be perceived outside, by the general public as to what we’re discussing and its relevance to the Constitution”.
    (see here at about 3.30

    IMO, that citizen got it completely right. I commented on this failure of this session of the Constitutional Convention here

    Now David Farrell has drawn attention to what UCC’s Mary Murphy described to in her presentation to that particular session of the Convention. She observed that our Dáil lies at the “weak reactive” side of the categorisation of parliaments. her presentation is here

    Perhaps those involved in organising the Convention will let us know how the meeting on Dáil reform was so anodyne.
    In the meantime, I suggest – yet again – that the late John Kelly (UCD Professional of Constitutional Law, author of the standard work on the constitution, TD, Attorney General, Minister) would see it as another example of what he described ” Ireland’s political and official rulers have largely behaved like a crew of maintenance engineers, just keeping a lot of old British structures and plant ticking over.”

    We have a lot more work to do to enhance our way of governing ourselves.

  2. It’s another example of the Government’s sociopathic approach to the Convention and citizen engagement on reform.

    They asked the Convention to deliberate these questions. They set the bizarre agenda. They wasted these people’s time for more than a year while they deliberated. And when the response came back, they nonchalantly say that they don’t think it can be done anyway – or they were never interested in it to begin with.

    And I say “sociopath” because a psychopath would at least demonstrate greater forethought and less erraticism.

  3. This very disappointing indeed. As someone living in the UK but who still pays Irish income tax I have felt disenfrachised since leaving Ireland 20 years ago. Taxation with no representation in this case.
    However, I think there is a more general issue here outside of my personal position. There are difficuties involved in organising such a right to vote but they are not insurmountable. Although not the best example: Hungary (for irredentist reasons) permits Hungarians living in adjacent states to vote in Hungarian elections (to the benefit of the current government). US citizens living abroad have voted in their elections for a long time.
    Surely a basic registration method could be devised and overseen by the Irish diplomatic staff abroad? This is a political decision based on a very conservative attitude to irish citizenship and one that should be challenged as David Farrell does here. I am fortunate to have a vote in the UK and indeed was able to vote in the Scottish referendum on independence. If we take seriously the idea of multi-level governance in the EU and the complext nature of identity and citizenship having more than one vote is a very positive right and responsibility

    • Brian,
      I have two qeustions about votes for emigrants/immigrants
      1. Why should emigrants have the right to vote in any jurisdiction in which they are not subject to the outcomes of the election in which they vote?
      2. Why should immigrants not have the right to vote when they are subject to the outcomes of elections in which they are denied the vote?
      This covers more than the effect of taxation and/or fees and/or levies and/or user charges etc.
      As we know, living in a society means that the uses to which public sector revenues are put are critical for work/health/education/welfare. Itg covers such things as which topics get priority in drawing up. passing and implementing legislation.
      An example is how public transport is provided, regulated and funded.

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