Emigrants home to vote illegally say they feel ‘justified’ in their actions
‘I should be entitled to shape the future of my country where I want to come back to’
Under current law an Irish citizen is disqualified from voting in elections or referendums if they have lived outside the State for more than 18 months: Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire
A number of people who have returned to Ireland to vote in the referendum illegally have defended their decision to do so.
Under current law an Irish citizen is disqualified from voting in elections or referendums if they have lived outside the State for more than 18 months.
Emigrants who spoke to The Irish Times said they felt justified in their actions, given Ireland’s history of emigration.
One woman, speaking on the basis of anonymity, said: “I’m of the generation that graduated just after the biggest economic downturn in recent history and 50 per cent of people in my year migrated because they couldn’t find work here.
“My parents’ generation, like my generation, also lost half of its cohort. They went abroad. It’s Irish history.”
Now based in England, she does feel guilty about voting illegally. “For sure I have a conscience about it but I have justified my vote because I think that I should be entitled to shape the future of my country where I want to come back to and I think as well that I represent the lost youth.”
Another illegal voter made a comparison with the UK’s Brexit referendum vote.
“It was the older generation who made the decision for the UK to leave the EU. So all of the younger people who are going to be living there, who have stayed there, they’re the ones who are affected by it.”
Now living in the Netherlands, she has “never felt morally uncomfortable”, about voting illegally. “It’s because I know I’m doing it as somebody who’s likely to return, as somebody who feels very connected and I feel it’s for the greater good.”
However, another illegal voter , now based in Spain, said she felt very guilty about voting. However, she said said issues like abortion were “generational matters that have already been decided in most other EU countries”.
The Department of the Environment said it was a matter for each individual local authority to keep its electoral register up to date.
Voters still on the register after 18 months are usually citizens who had been living in the family home.
There are no figures available for the numbers of eligible emigrant voters who have been abroad for less than a year and a half.