• Subscribe to our newsletter

    Email address

  • Archives

  • Tags

  • Newswatch Categories

  • « | Main | »

    Denial of MEP votes makes global Irish lesser EU citizens

    By Noreen Bowden | May 28, 2010

    The European Voice Newspaper published a letter I sent in regarding one of the effects of Ireland’s policy of disenfranchising its emigrants. In it I argued that Ireland’s denial of emigrant voting rights effectively leaves Irish citizens disadvantaged as European citizens of a lesser status.

    The letter is on the website as well as in the newspaper. It’s behind a paywall (though it will be available next week for registered users), so here is the text as I submitted it to the paper:

    Your article, “The muzzled British diaspora in the EU” (discussed in this article), highlights the plight of British expats who cannot vote after fifteen years abroad. Irish citizens have it even worse: we lose all rights to vote as soon as we move abroad.

    The situation also means that there are two tiers of European citizenship: most citizens of EU member states are entitled to elect MEPs no matter where in the world they live. Irish citizens, however, lose their rights to representation at EU level if they move to a non-EU country. Surely there should be some way to ensure equality of European representation for European citizens?

    It’s my understanding that the EU takes no interest in the expat voting policies of individual nations.  It seems to me that when you have a parliamentary body representing citizens of an entity such as the EU, however, there should be equal access among citizens of that entity to representation as a matter of fairness. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a larger issue in the years to come, particularly set against the current global context of increasing diaspora engagement and the rising number of nations allowing their emigrants to vote.

    I’ll be talking more about these issues next month,  as one of the keynote speakers at the Europeans Throughout the World conference in Bratislava.

    See the letter on

    Topics: Latest News | 3 Comments »

    3 Responses to “Denial of MEP votes makes global Irish lesser EU citizens”

    1. Mark Smyth Says:
      June 16th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      I never understand why people have an expectation that Irish citizens living abroad should be able to vote. While it is true that many other nations do allow it, there is little logical reason for it. It would be much more justifiable to campaign for Irish citizens living abroad to be able to vote for MPs in their country of residence (as indeed they can do in the EU for MEP elections). People should be able to vote in the country where they live and pay their taxes (or benefit from social welfare, or whatever). I am Irish living abroad and cannot vote locally unless I take citizenship. I can see no reason why I should vote for an Irish MP since the Irish goverment make no decisions that impact my life.

    2. Noreen Bowden Says:
      July 12th, 2010 at 11:31 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Mark – apologies I’m only answering you now. I certainly agree with you that people should be able to vote where they live, but that is a separate issue. And as you point out, there is a valid path for you to vote in the country in which you’re now living – you could take up citizenship there.

      Of course if you feel that the Irish government makes no decisions that affect your life, you’d be free not to vote in Irish elections, whether or not other Irish citizens living abroad have that right. There are some people living abroad, however, who do feel that decisions made in Ireland are affecting their lives. Some Irish people would like to return home, and feel they cannot do so because of the economy or circumstances around social welfare (like the habitual residency condition). Others are paying the tax on non-primary residences because they have inherited the family home, so they are being taxed without being entitled to representation. Others are entitled to Irish pensions and are thus affected by social welfare policies.

      With almost every developed nation allowing its emigrants to vote, I’m not sure it’s reasonable to say there’s little logical reason for it. Many people regard voting as the most basic right of citizenship – why should you lose it just because you are exercising your right to work abroad in the EU, for example, or because you are forced to go abroad to seek work and intend to return home? Plus there’s the fact that the government is working very hard to engage economically with our emigrants – how much more can we continue to ask of them without giving them the most basic voice in policy determination?

    3. Trish Says:
      November 22nd, 2010 at 10:25 pm

      As a general election has today been called in Ireland by the government which has forced so many of its own citizens to leave the country to work and live elsewhere in order to be able to survive, it strikes me as the ultimate slap in the face to these people that have been forced to emigrate that they will now not even have the right to vote that government out. That government has affected their lives and futures and it is just wrong that they no longer have a voice when it comes to deciding who will steer Ireland through the uncertain future.