Am I Still Part of the Irish Nation?

If your country of birth disenfranchises you because you aren’t around, are you still a part of it? 
note:  a version of this story was first posted at Generation Emigration
I emigrated from Ireland in 2002, or to put it a different way, I’ve missed the chance to vote in three general elections, one presidential election, and eight referendums. Perhaps I’m asking too much to still expect a vote. Perhaps eleven years is too long. What if, say, someone has only been gone for five years? Or three? Or one? As it stands now, Irish emigrants are virtually disenfranchised the moment we step on to the boat at Dun Laoghaire.
With the nation Gathering at the dock to wave goodbye to her children again, now more than ever Ireland needs to welcome back its emigrants in a meaningful way, with a gesture that goes beyond sentiment. The Gathering and the lepping about on Beckett Bridge was nice, but if you’re going to turn me upside down and shake the loose change out of my pockets, the least you can do is let me register to vote on the way back to the airport.
None of us wanted to leave, but some of us would like to return, and we’d like the chance to help shape what the place will be like for us if and when we get back. Besides, isn’t it sort of embarrassing that a so-called developed country refuses to let some of its citizens vote? Isn’t that in breach of our civil rights? Does Ireland really want to be the Bangladesh of Europe?
Of course, there is an argument to be made that the Irish Constitution already allows for its emigrants to vote. There is no mention of a prohibition. Article 1 outlines the rights of its citizens as follows:  “The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government.” And if there is any confusion as to what “the Irish Nation” is, Article 2 states “It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland … to be part of the Irish Nation.”
I was born in Ireland and lived there for almost twenty-five years before I emigrated. Am I still a part of the Irish Nation?
As it happens, 2013 has been declared the European Year of Citizens. Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are the only EU countries that don’t allow their emigrants to vote. In a report issued in May, EU Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding said “the practice of depriving citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country is effectively tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement.”
With the Constitutional Convention around the corner, there is an increasing call for the Government to allow this. A random sample shows just how strong the feelings are among emigrants.

UPDATE: The Constitutional Convention has a survey on this topic available for Irish emigrants to complete.

The survey can be found here



What do you think? Should emigrants be allowed vote in their homeland?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s