Having been the first person appointed by any political party as spokesperson for the Irish overseas and diaspora, I’m delighted with the progress that has been made over the last few years.
- June 2013 – In that role I produced the first Fianna Fáil policy paper on the topic in which we called for a Minister for the Irish Overseas. Fianna Fáil were the first political party to do so.
- October 2013 – Minister Eamonn Gilmore then asked for a Minister for the position, having agreed with the French Politician Hélène Conway and saying ‘Ireland would benefit from having a deputy Minister for the Irish Overseas’.
- March 2014 – Sinn Féin published a policy paper on the topic.
- July 2014 – a Minister was appointed for the position.
This was very much welcomed by the Irish community abroad. Voting rights are the most fundamental expression of citizenship. It is scandalous that we do not allow 800,000 Irish citizens who reside overseas the right to vote. We should not accept this as part and package of Irish citizenship. There are 33 countries in the European Council of Europe and a mere 4 do not have this right for their citizens abroad to vote. Out of 196 countries over 120 have introduced this element into their citizenship. It is important to note that the Constitutional Convention encouraged this introduction. Yet the government said there is a legal and technical issue and are using this as an excuse as to why it cannot be done now.
In the run up to 2016 the greatest gift we could give all of our citizens – wherever they are – is the right to vote.