Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Still at home? Then VOTE!

If there’s one thing most emigrants would like you to do on May 31st, it is vote, because we can’t, writes Philip O’Connor from Stockholm.

Wed, May 30, 2012, 01:00



The referendum on the fiscal treaty takes place in Ireland tomorrow.

If there’s one thing most emigrants would like you to do on May 31st, it is vote.

Because we can’t.

I know most people are bored to death by the arguments, claims and counter-claims of the campaign, but it’s all done for a reason.

And that is to give you a chance to make your voice heard.

That right – the democratic right to have a say in your country’s future – is something denied to those of us who have left Ireland. This is despite the fact that we are called upon to do our best when it comes to marketing Ireland abroad.

Indeed, with ‘the Gathering’ project gaining momentum, we are being asked to return in person next year and boost Ireland’s economy with our dollars and our crowns and our yen. Many of us will do so without question.

But many of us aren’t entitled to vote in our new countries either – maybe we haven’t been here long enough, or maybe we’re not prepared to give up our citizenship to gain a franchise in a foreign land.

For many it is a bitter irony that our love of our country leaves us with a voice neither here nor there.

I haven’t been allowed to vote in Ireland for almost 13 years, and it pains me greatly; not because I think it would have made a lick of difference to the outcome of any election or referendum, but because leaving Ireland somehow renders my citizenship irrelevant to my country.

My citizenship matters very much to me, and I have no intention of ever giving it up.

I envy my ex-patriate Swedish friends when their elections come around – like many other countries, Sweden allows its citizens postal votes from abroad.

I have my own opinions about the European Stability Mechanism, but that is not what is important right now.

What is important is that those of you who still have the right to vote go out and do so.

For the hundreds of thousands who have been disenfranchised by emigration, your vote is important, regardless of whether it is yes or no.

The higher the turnout, the stronger the signal that your vote is as important to you as ours would be to us – if only we were given the chance.

Philip O’Connor is author of A Parish Far From Home. He is a freelance writer/journalist/producer, and MD of Eblana Communications. He blogs as ourmaninstockholm and tweets @philipoconnor.