Votes for all

At this stage it's something of a political hardy annual, though perhaps more annual than hardy. Sinn Féin is the latest Irish political party to plunge into the matter of votes for the diaspora, an issue that was last widely discussed in the late 1990s when Fianna Fáil promised across the board voting rights for the Irish overseas, only to drop the idea once voted into power by an electorate confined to the 26 counties.

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Sinn Féin wants that electorate expanded into the Six Counties of the North and to all points of the global compass where eligible diaspora members reside.

"Make your voice heard, demand your right to vote," was the rallying cry uttered this week by party finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty.

Doherty has launched an online petition calling on the government to grant voting rights for all Irish citizens regardless of where they live. Doherty will be heading to Australia in September where, according to a release, "he will make an effort to speak to all those Irish people who have been forced to move there to find work."

Added Doherty: "For the most part this was not out of choice but because they want to work. These Irish citizens, who through no fault of their own have been forced to leave our shores, are denied the right to vote in Irish elections. But looking closer to home, an hour and a half up the road from here in the North, Irish people are also denied the right to vote and have their say in how their country is run.

"It doesn't matter if you live in Dublin, Derry or Dubai. Irish people have a right to vote. Forced emigration and partition means that hundreds of thousands of Irish people are denied that right. Sinn Féin wants to change that.

"Today we are launching this online petition which calls on the taoiseach to extend voting rights in presidential elections, and all constitutional reform referenda to the Irish diaspora and citizens in the Six Counties."

The online petition can be accessed at