Sinn Féin urges presidential voting rights for North


SINN FÉIN has called for voting rights in the presidential election to be extended to Irish citizens in Northern Ireland.

In a protest outside Leinster House yesterday, members of Ógra Shinn Féin wore the county jerseys of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone with a gag covering their mouths to indicate the lack of voting rights for those in the North.

The party is expected to introduce a Private Members’ motion in the Dáil in the autumn on the issue. Sinn Féin education spokesman Seán Crowe said the extension of voting rights was “a natural outworking of the Good Friday agreement, which enshrines the rights of people in the North to Irish citizenship”.

He said the president represented the Irish diaspora and the vote should be extended to Irish citizens abroad as well. He believed a referendum could be introduced on the issue before the presidential election in October, although the party has called for the issue to be brought to referendum before the 2018 presidential election.

The Dublin South West TD said if the political will was there, legislation could be passed very quickly to allow for a referendum to extend the vote to those in the North and to Irish citizens abroad.

He said there was “nothing outrageous about our demand” and called on candidates in the presidential election to indicate their views on the issue. Extending the vote should be part of political reforms along with changes in the criteria for presidential candidate nominations, Mr Crowe added.

The difficulties candidates had in getting nominations – through the backing of four local authorities or 20 TDs and senators – had been demonstrated in this election, he said.

Sinn Féin will decide in early September whether to put up its own candidate, to support an Independent or to not get involved. Party members were being consulted on the issue.

Mr Crowe said Sinn Féin councillors had backed individual candidates in council votes but the formal decision on the option its 17 Oireachtas members – 14 TDs and three Senators – would take would be finalised early next month.

Ógra Shinn Féin has been campaigning on the issue of votes in the North. National organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said there should be voting “rights for all Irish citizens”. Ógra Fhianna Fáil supported the move, Mr Ó Laoghaire said, adding it was included in Fine Gael’s political reform proposals and the SDLP’s youth section also backed the move.