Referendum commission set up over extending presidential vote to emigrants and North

Move follows publication of Bill which would allow citizens resident outside State to vote

Mr Justice David Barniville has been appointed chairman of the commission. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónail

Mr Justice David Barniville has been appointed chairman of the commission. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónail

 

A Referendum Commission has been set up to advise the electorate on the upcoming ballot on allowing Irish citizens in the North and emigrants to vote in presidential elections, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has announced.

The move follows the publication of a Bill in recent weeks which would allow citizens resident outside the State to vote, but which must first be passed by the Dáil and Seanad before a referendum can be held.

It is likely to be debated by TDs and Senators in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, Mr Coveney said he had made an order under the Referendum Act 1998 establishing an independent statutory Referendum Commission to explain the referendum and encourage people to vote.

Mr Justice David Barniville has been appointed chairman of the commission and will be joined on it by Comptroller and Auditor General Séamus McCarthy, ombudsman Peter Tyndall, clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan and clerk of the Seanad Martin Groves.

Opposition leaders who met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar earlier this month were told that more work needed to be done to prepare for the referendum, with sources expecting it would not be completed in time for a November poll.

It is thought that the focus on Brexit – and on the four by-elections scheduled to take place in November – will squeeze out plans for the vote in the same month.