Senator Billy Lawless
By Irish Echo Staff
A majority of Irish voters are in favor of Irish citizens living abroad being allowed to vote in presidential elections.
Support for the move is strongest among middle-aged women who vote for either the Green Party or Sinn Féin, this according to a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday.
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The voter sentiment has emerged from an Ireland Thinks poll that also reveals that the over-55s are the biggest supporters of Irish citizens living in the North and elsewhere casting their vote for the presidency.
The survey shows that those least in favor of granting Irish citizens living abroad the vote are Labour Party and Fine Gael supporters in the 25-44 age group.
But the biggest supporters of all are the Don’t Know voters with 48% of them in favor of granting people living overseas the vote.
The survey was commissioned by Chicago-based businessman and independent senator Billy Lawless and the VotingRights.ie lobby group.
The overall result shows that just over half of those polled were in favor of Irish citizens living abroad being granted the right to vote in the Republic’s presidential elections.
Up to 1,500 people were questioned in the poll that was carried out just before Christmas.
According to Senator Lawless, the results should become part of any program for government coalition deal agreed between political parties going into government together.
“I’m very pleased with the result. It shows that 50-55% are in favor – it’s winnable,” Lawless said.
“The old arguments are there of course but I’m delighted. I want this to be part of the program for government. Sinn Féin will certainly include it and the taoiseach, tánaiste and minister for the diaspora are hugely in favor of it.
“We are only one of three or four countries in Europe who don’t give citizens abroad a vote.
We think the vote should be given to Irish citizens and we are not in favor of the vote been given to people living abroad who were born in Ireland. We don’t want any second-class citizens.”
Senator Lawless added: “My research over the last year or two shows that those living abroad vote within two to three percent either way of the vote in their home country.”
Senator Lawless, who was appointed to the Irish Senate in 2016 by then taoiseach Enda Kenny as Senator for the Global Irish has advocated in subsequent years for the rights of Irish people living overseas.
“There are very few Irish homes that haven’t been affected by emigration, so it’s a family issue for most of us,” he said.
“I have been an ardent proponent from the outset for a referendum in Ireland to give the vote in Irish presidential elections to Irish nationals living overseas and in Northern Ireland.
“Whichever party assumes the reins of power after the recent election should make this a priority for government. We owe it to our people, regardless of where they reside.”
Senator Lawless, who is based in Chicago, is the Echo’s Irish American of the Year for 2020.
By Irish Echo Staff