Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed this morning’s cross party support from the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government for his Bill which seeks to extend the franchise in Presidential elections to citizens in the North and in the diaspora.
The Bill which is co-sponsored by Seán Crowe TD would also lower the voting age in Presidential elections to 16.
The Bill is entitled: Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Presidential Voting) Bill 2014
Following this morning’s Committee meeting Teachta Adams said:
“I want to welcome the very positive response from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government which this morning discussed the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Presidential Voting) Bill 2014.
I believe this Bill is an essential part of the modernisation of the island of Ireland. There was cross party support for the proposed legislation and a consensus opinion expressed by Committee members that this is an issue that needs to be progressed speedily.
The Bill was up for scrutiny as part of the legislative process. It has already passed second stage and will now go through its pre-legislative stage before returning to the Dáil.
Sinn Féin has long campaigned for Presidential voting rights to be extended to citizens in the north and in the Diaspora, and for citizens of the north to have representation in both the Dáil and the Seanad.
In September 2013 the Constitutional Convention a clear majority of members favoured a change to the Constitution to give citizens resident outside the State and including the citizens in the North the right to vote in Presidential elections.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to those recommendations and to allow for the Oireachtas to legislate for the provision of voting rights for citizens in Presidential elections without restrictions on residency and to lower the voting age to 16.
The government have belatedly begun to move on this matter. The announcement in March by the Taoiseach in the USA that there would be a referendum was welcome. Minister Coveney’s consultation process on how this will work in practice is also to be welcomed. This Bill does not affect any of that.
It is supplementary to that process, as any legislative mechanisms that arise from the Minister’s consultation process will still need to be underpinned in the Constitution. This Bill will facilitate this.
Nineteen years ago, the Good Friday Agreement enshrined in law the rights and entitlements of Irish citizens across all of Ireland’s thirty-two counties. It did not seek to give partial citizenship or, indeed, second-class citizenship to the Irish citizens in the north; it gave full Irish citizenship as a birth right.
That was endorsed by the people, north and south, who recognised that the Irish nation is more than the Irish State.
There is no reason, in my opinion, for any further unnecessary delay in extending to all citizens the right to vote for their President”.
· The proposed new text of Article 12.2.2° of the Constitution, as outlined in the Schedule to the Bill, shall allow for legislation to be enacted that would afford citizens, without disqualification due to residency, the right to vote in Presidential elections.
· It would also allow for citizens who have reached the age of sixteen years to vote in Presidential elections.
· More than 120 other states have legislated to allow their citizens abroad to cast their votes in elections at home.
· The second element to this Bill is the extension of the electoral franchise to include citizens who have reached the age of 16 years.
· In Scotland 75% of 16 and 17 year olds cast their vote when afforded the opportunity.
· The voting age in Norwegian local elections was lowered to 16 years in 2011 as a trial in 21 municipalities. Some 58% of 16 and 17 year olds cast their vote.
· In 2007, Austria lowered its legal voting age in all elections.