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Announcement by the Taoiseach on Voting Rights in Presidential Elections for Irish Citizens outside the State


The Taoiseach today announced that the Government has decided to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution to allow Irish citizens resident outside the State, including in Northern Ireland, to be allowed to vote in Irish presidential elections.  

The Government's decision is in line with the recommendations of the Convention on the Constitution, in their Fifth Report. 

This announcement is a historic recognition of the strong and enduring links between Ireland and all our citizens, wherever they are in the world.  

Speaking at the Irish Memorial in Philadelphia today, the Taoiseach said: "Today's announcement is a profound recognition of the importance that Ireland attaches to all of our citizens, wherever they may be.  It is an opportunity for us to make our country stronger by allowing all of our citizens resident outside the State, including our emigrants, to vote in future presidential elections.

"I am especially pleased to be making this announcement as we prepare for our worldwide celebration of St. Patrick's Day and of all that is Irish."

Extending the franchise in presidential elections to Irish citizens resident outside the State gives rise to a range of legal, policy and practical issues.  In order to have an informed public debate on this, Government will publish a detailed Options Paper later this month to set out the range of options available to give effect to the recommendation of the Convention on the Constitution.  This paper will also be one of the topics for discussion at the Global Irish Civic Forum which will take place  in Dublin in May.

The extension of the franchise will require modernisation of the voter registration process and the introduction of arrangements to facilitate citizens to exercise their franchise from outside the State. The Government has agreed that important work will now commence on modernisation of the voter registration process to effect improvements in the registration of voters.  

This announcement is also in keeping with arrangements in place in a majority of countries around the world who provide for voting by those of their citizens resident outside the State.


The Convention on the Constitution in its Fifth Report, submitted to the Oireachtas in November 2013, recommended that the constitution be amended to provide for citizens resident outside the State, including Northern Ireland, to have the right to vote at presidential elections.  

Today's announcement is also set in the context of Ireland's long history of emigration and strong relationship with our large global diaspora.  As outlined in Global Irish:  Ireland's Diaspora Policy, that unique and important relationship is nurtured and developed by Government through a broad range of initiatives and networks.  


A key theme that emerged from submissions received during the development of Ireland's Diaspora Policy was the importance of the issue of voting rights to many Irish citizens abroad.  Many members of the diaspora felt it would allow them to deepen their engagement with Ireland and to play a more active role in Irish society.


At the time of publication of Global Irish:  Ireland's Diaspora Policy in 2015, the Government asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government; the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Diaspora Affairs to analyse the policy, legal and practical issues arising from Convention on the Constitution's recommendations on the extension of voting rights to Irish citizens outside the State, including Northern Ireland, in presidential elections.  


That analysis has been completed and has formed the basis of a detailed Options Paper which will be published this month.


Link to Options Paper