Taoiseach seeks referendum on presidential voting rights

Varadkar also signals intention to reshuffle Cabinet after local and European elections in May

Leo Varadkar said the next head of State will be a president for those living in Northern Ireland and those who live in other parts of the world.  File photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar said the next head of State will be a president for those living in Northern Ireland and those who live in other parts of the world. File photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire

 

The Taoiseach has said he is determined to hold a referendum on whether the right to vote in the presidential election should be extended to Irish citizens living outside the State.

Leo Varadkar said the next head of State will be a president for those living in Northern Ireland and those who live in other parts of the world.

“The plan at the moment is to have plebiscites in Cork, Limerick and Galway on whether they’d like to have a directly elected executive mayor or not, and then to have referendums on divorce and also on extending the right to vote in presidential elections to Irish citizens living outside of the State,” he said.

“Then we’ll have a second set of referendums later in the year.

“However, there’s one caveat to that: we were going to have the referendum on women in the home.

“That was to be held against the Presidential elections. We decided not to go ahead with that. We didn’t have decent cross-party consensus on what to do, and the Joint Oireachtas Committee has now come back to us with a proposed wording.

“If that wording is acceptable to the Attorney General — if he’s able to say to us that it means what it says it means, you know you always have to be very careful about what you write into the Constitution — we may substitute that for the referendum on divorce instead.

“We are determined to go ahead with the one to extend the right to vote to Irish citizens outside of Ireland in presidential elections.”

Mr Varadkar said he wants Fine Gael to become the main party of local government again after the local and European elections, which take place at the end of May.

The Taoiseach said he may also launch a challenge to secure a fifth seat in the European Parliament.

He added: “Holding four would be the target there. We’ve also set a particular target that at least one third of our candidates will be female, which is a total that we’re determined to press ahead with that.”

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach indicated his intentions to reshuffle the Cabinet after the European and local elections saying it would be the “logical time” to reshuffle the team.

“That was done on the last occasion by Enda Kenny as Taoiseach,” he added.

“I’d be minded to do the same. There’ll be a chance to reshuffle the team then, perhaps in June or July.

“That would give them a chance over the summer to read into new briefs if they get them. But we need to get their first.” – PA