Manifesto For The Diaspora

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From top: Seanad hopefuls Barry Johnston and Ed Davitt

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier, journalist Jackie Fox spoke to several young Irish people living abroad ahead of the general election in light of the #hometovote campaign during the Marriage Referendum last year.

One person she spoke with was Sipke Shaughnessy, from Bandon, Co. Cork, who left Ireland five years ago and is now studying for a PhD in Geography at the University of Cambridge.

He won’t be coming home for the general election due to short notice about the election date.

Mr Shaughnessy said:

“I understand that the rules for calling an election only allow about a 30-day period from the dissolution of the Dáil to the general election but I do feel like it would have been nice if the Taoiseach had announced the date or had given an indication of the exact date a little bit earlier in advance…”

Further to this, two Irish men are seeking seats in the Seanad as overseas candidates.

Galway-born but London-based Barry Johnston is running as a candidate for the National University of Ireland panel, while Dublin-born but Brussels-based Ed Davitt, 35, is running for the University of Dublin (Trinity College) panel.

Today the two men are launching Emigrant Manifesto – a campaign calling for the following:

An extension of the current 18 month period in which emigrants can remain on the electoral register to a minimum of at least one electoral cycle and allow votes to be cast overseas (In the UK this period is 15 years).

– An extension of the right to vote in elections for the Dáil to all Irish citizens abroad who are first generation emigrants (that is, who were born in Ireland and left).

– That this be managed by a system of reserved constituencies in order not to swamp the votes of resident citizens (as happens in 14 other countries). These votes would not have a time limit.

– That all citizens abroad (including those of Irish descent who have become citizens) should be able to exercise the right to vote for the President.

– An Electoral Commission should be established in the first 100 days of the new government to begin this process.

Listen back to Morning Ireland here

Emigrant Manifesto

100 thoughts on “Manifesto For The Diaspora

  1. Funster Fionnanánn

    The president is for nothing more then cutting ribbons and eating cake abroad.

    If you can’t make it back to Ireland from anywhere on the planet for one day with a months notice then you are doing life wrong.

    And if you aren’t paying tax here you shouldn’t get to vote here.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      “The president is for nothing more then cutting ribbons and eating cake abroad.”

      And to act as buffer against uppity governments in fairness. With people like Varadkar and Kelly around, that role is pretty important. Although I agree that there are way too many trappings. He doesn’t even need to be called president. We should be electing ‘Some bloke who’s signature is needed for legislation needed just in case we get wannabe dictators in power’. It could be some lad working in Tesco. That would be brilliant.

      “And if you aren’t paying tax here you shouldn’t get to vote here.”

      Maybe they left because they couldn’t find any job that would allow them to pay tax here and would really like to come back if the right government were in power.

      1. bisted

        ‘…And to act as buffer against uppity governments in fairness’…like he did when he was signing that water legislation into law which has remained the most divisive piece of legislation ever inflicted on the Irish people…

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Yes. Just because this president did doesn’t mean the next one would. The point I’m making is that the office exists to provide that buffer. That one individual person in the office wouldn’t use that power doesn’t mean that power is gone.

        2. Robert

          Come on now, his only option if he doesn’t agree with it is to refer it to the supreme court and they would only block it then if it was found to be unconstitutional.

          I agree that you shouldn’t get to vote in the general election if you don’t live here because you can’t have a situation where a government is selected by an electorate that isn’t entirely subject to them.

          Regarding election of president in “my opinion” there’s some wiggle-room because it is more of an ceremonial figurehead role but is nevertheless an important figure in a global context.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Anyone can vote for president as far as I’m concerned. Ship, you can let the leadership of Combat 18 vote for all I care. But, I think, people who left this country because of conditions created by our government should be allowed to vote for a new one if they want to come back.

          2. bisted

            …I’m an ex-labour supporter and activist. I campaigned for Mary Robinson for precisely the reason that she would be more than a ‘ceremonial figurehead’.
            My embarrassment at being misled and betrayed by labour in government is compounded by someone like Squee allowing himself to be gagged by the party.

          3. Robert

            and without a constitutional change figurehead is all he or she could ever be. Maybe jump on the Reinstate 48 thing?

          4. Anne

            “I agree that you shouldn’t get to vote in the general election if you don’t live here because you can’t have a situation where a government is selected by an electorate that isn’t entirely subject to them.”

            Hmm, Robert..

            People have had to emigrate though over the governments we’ve had.. why shouldn’t they have a say in the future of the country, particularly as they may want to return home at some point.

          5. MoyestWithExcitement

            “How do you differentiate?”

            If you can’t, then you can’t. No system is perfect. You don’t punish everyone to make sure you catch out the minority. It’d be liking scrapping social welfare because there are some people who cheat.

          6. realPolithicks

            “People have had to emigrate though over the governments we’ve had.. why shouldn’t they have a say in the future of the country, particularly as they may want to return home at some point.”

            I agree with you on this one Anne, although there probably needs to be some limit put on it. I grew up in Dublin but I’ve lived in the US since 1987, I don’t feel like I should have any say in who the government in Ireland should be.

        3. Rob_G

          @bisted – there was nothing in the Irish Water legislation that was remotely unsconstitutional, so the President would have been unable to refer it to the Supreme Court. The President is there is sign legislation if it is within the remit of the constitution, or refer it to the Supreme Court if he is concerned that it is unconstitutional; he is not there to act as a barometer on popularity of particular pieces of legislation.

        4. Emah

          Well, if he referred it to Supreme court and it was found to be constitutional then it could never be challenged again. At least this way an avenue is still open for challenges.

    2. dav

      yes citizenship should stop and end at taxes, Lets take that a bit further, why not give the rich 2 or 3 extra votes, since their wealth makes them better than the unwaged??

        1. dav

          and make sure that when the rich walk past they bow respectfully, like in the good old days of serfdom and slavery

      1. Robert

        I think the focus on taxation per se is a little bit misplaced. But you definitely should be living here, and subject to the consequences of your selection. Taxation is a good proxy but it places the emphasis incorrectly IMHO – anybody that lives here that doesn’t pay taxes should also be allowed to vote. It’s not too far fetched to consider an 18 y/o living at home with his parents who doesn’t have a job and he should certainly be allowed to vote.

        1. Robert

          By the same token if you’re resident outside of the country for tax purposes you *shouldn’t* be allowed to vote even if you do live here to all intents and purposes.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Yup. If you’re skiving out of your duties as a citizen, why should you get a say?

    3. Zero

      If you don’t pay tax here is the daftest line that’s gets spouted. So no votes for the unemployed, full time students, prisoners to name but three groups who don’t pay tax. That is assuming you mean income tax right? I live in London but I’m pretty sure that when I bought a round of drinks at home over Christmas I was paying tax on it. Get a better argument than paying tax. A right to vote is derived from your citizenship of a nation.

      1. Andrew

        All of those people you mention, unemployed, students et.c all pay tax. VAT. Your right to vote is NOT derived from your citizenship and no representation without taxation is not a new concept matey.

        1. Mé Féin

          …no representation without taxation is not a new concept matey.
          Yes it is. The real phrase is no taxation without representation.

    4. Fergus the magic postman

      So Funster, the government encourage people to emigrate, & you think they should then take their right to come back & vote from them. There would be more than a little bit of a conflict of interest there.

  2. Disasta

    Em, Enda probably did it cause if people came home he’d be destroyed by them as they are probably the people he forced abroad.

    1. classter

      This is the reason why I support an emigrant vote.

      Not Enda specifically.

      But it gives any govt the incentive not to care about those forced out (obviously not everyone is ‘forced out’ but some clearly are). It breeds an unhelpful conservatism in Irish politics

  3. Andrew

    Unless you are paying tax here of some kind I don’t see why you should have a vote. I say that as someone who has emigrated in the past. I thought that #hometovote thing was pathetic to be honest.

    1. dav

      you’ll be looking for the property franchise to be introduced next, only those who own property will be allowed to vote

    2. ahjayzis

      17% of the people born in Ireland who are alive today no longer live in Ireland. Seriously, think about that.

      The fact that that’s not a naitonal shame or even an election issue that our demographics look like the aftermath of a war is directly down to the fact that the people whose lives have been most upended and changed by the incompetence of governments are the ones who are deprived of a say in that government.

      1. classter

        I don’t necessarily think of it as a national shame.

        But I have spent time abroad, out of choice rather than necessity, and so have quite a number of my friends and family.

        I do think that it is short-sighted not to allow those Irish living abroad any say in our politics.

    1. scottser

      way to go – turning a noble and important sentiment into an instrument of oppression in one simple inversion.

  4. commentwriter

    I think all citizens should be facilitated in voting wherever they are as much as possible. Through an embassy perhaps. Not sure what’s so controversial about allowing citizens to vote.

    1. dav

      It strikes at ther heart of the backwards political establishment, think of the Bull McCabes speech in the field when he was giving out about those who left during the famine, when they should have stuck around and been miserable and dead like those who didn’t leave – that’s the type of mentality that you are dealing with.
      Thick, ignorant, backward and fearful

      1. LW

        You seem to be assuming everyone who left is party to your own enlightened mentality. If you’re reading the papers online from abroad, you’ll be getting more of the message about keeping the recovery going than anything else.

        1. dav

          what foopping recovery?? thousands of irish children homeless and you prattle on about a recovery?? Why don’t you toddle off into your “fiscal space” fantasy land

          1. LW

            dave me aul flower, you’re not reading what I’m saying. If you’re living abroad, getting your news from the independent or times online, you’re going be reading a lot of these messages about keeping the recovery going. I personally don’t see much evidence of a recovery, but that’s because I’m living here

        2. dav

          then my apologies LW, but I would also hope that most who were forced abroad would remember the scum that drove them to that option in the 1st place

          1. LW

            Hope springs eternal, but given that the national and international media are so taken with Enda’s recovery, it might well be misplaced

          2. Andy

            You mean the “scum” (your term) that sponge off the hard work of others?
            The scum that don’t want to pay for anything – water charges, LPT, USC etc?
            Many left because they were sick of paying high taxes for no services – so while 40% of the population get a medical card they’ve to pay for private medical insurance, while the election is dominated by people looking for social housing they’ve to pay massive rents or huge mortgages.
            And what’s the oppositions solution? Charge them more tax if they get elected but give them nothing in return?
            Yours truly,
            Someone who left.

    2. ahyeah

      because a fundamental aspect of democracy is that all those affected by decisions should have an equal input into making those decisions.

      if you live abroad, you’re not affected by decisions made by an Irish government – 10 days at christmas doesn’t count

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        Should you not get to vote for a government that will affect your immediate family and your decision about whether or not to come home?

        1. commentwriter

          Exactly. If I choose to become a citizen of another country then i’ve given up my right to vote. Until then i’m only away temporarily. This argument just seems so petty and vindictive. What have you got against your fellow citizens?

  5. Cup of tea anyone?

    FF an d FG want the same farmers who never leave their own parish and so have a very closed world view to vote. Not those who left the country and actually might see what other countries can get right and actually look for a change.

    1. LW

      That’s certainly one viewpoint, but there’s actually a lot less voters on farms. These enlightened sages who are bringing the wisdom of other countries to us “closed world view” savages could always bring the good news in person, rather than just firing off a quick vote and considering the problem solved

      Population density map here, if you’d like to see where people are actually living
      http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/census/documents/Commentary,part,1.pdf

      1. Harry Molloy

        Thanks for your sensible, well thought out, and objective posts LW. Qualities which are lacking on much of the comments here, my own included!

      2. classter

        Population density is only part of the story, LW.

        Non-urban districts are disproportionately represented in terms of TD per person.

  6. LW

    Personally I think giving people living abroad the right to vote in presidential elections would be a complete waste of money. Average turnout of around 50% for the last two Presidential elections, it’s a figurehead role anyway, and has no real effect. I am fond of Michael D though.
    As to general elections, I think unless you’re going to be living with the consequences of your vote, you shouldn’t be voting. The creation of another 5 seat constituency seems absolutely ridiculous to me. Based on a Journal article linked below this would cost us north of 1.5 million a year, and I might be wrong, but none of the voters in this constituency will be paying for it.
    Finally they’re basing their desire for voters abroad to vote on an online survey, with 159 respondents, not exactly a phenomenal sample size, and surely skewed towards the people who would be likely to find this an issue.

    http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/column-cost-td-ministers-pension-811180-Mar2013/

    1. classter

      The point is that emigrants do live with the consequences of our votes.

      There is a fundamental problem when Irish politicians have an incentive to disregard the views of a large proportion of irish citizens – amongst them some of the most hard done by & the most accomplished.

      1. LW

        The point is that they don’t have to live with the consequences. Take USC for example, all the parties have a position on it. But whether it’s increased, decreased, or abolished nobody living outside of Ireland will have to pay it.

        You say below that returning emigrants isn’t an issue, I disagree. The government have been making noise about getting people home for a while now, they had a big advertising drive surrounding it at xmas actually. And it’s an issue when it’s mentioned by voters here, the parents of the emigrated for example.

        I also love these subtle suggestions that the people who moved abroad are a mix of martyrs and prodigies.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “I also love these subtle suggestions that the people who moved abroad are a mix of martyrs and prodigies.”

          Because you have a less complimentary view of them? That might explain all your posts.

          1. LW

            Haha I’m not a racist, some of my best friends have emigrated etc. But a good proportion of them left before the bust, and are far from hard done by. What I really don’t like is the implication that the people who are left behind are stupid. Or more stupid

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            So your argument is emotional more than logical then because that inference you’ve taken is projection on your part. Saying that people who left are smart does not imply that people who stayed are stupid. Also, the proposal in the OP is to give emigrants the vote for one election cycle. It looks like all the opposers of the proposal missed that bit.

          3. LW

            No, I think my argument is fairly logical. It’s that people living in an area should be the ones voting on their local representative. The other stuff is just colour on the side.
            They’re proposing to give them the vote then take it away? That seems even more pointless

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            I don’t think it’s *that* logical. I mean, you’ve already admitted that you don’t like the implication that everyone who stayed in Ireland is stupid. Nobody implied that so one can only deduce that when you say “What I really don’t like is the implication that the people who are left behind are stupid.” what you subconsciously mean is ‘I don’t like the implication that *I* am stupid.’. So you have that as your base and when this suggestion comes in that they should get a vote, your instinct is to just ‘not like it’ and then you try and rationalise it to yourself with these posts. Most emigrants will still be emotionally invested in this country. I don’t know how many but it’s safe to say a sizeable proportion are moving out of professional necessity and would ideally like to stay at home. Letting them still vote, for 5 years after they leave, on governments which might create the conditions that allow them to move home is perfectly reasonable. Obviously if someone is gone 15/20 years or something, they probably see themselves as permanent residents of wherever they are and shouldn’t get the vote. The cut off point though is impossible to determine in any sort of scientific context. It will always be a catch all guess. One election cycle seems fair to me.

          5. LW

            No Moyest, I really do believe that people living in an area should be the ones choosing the local representative.

            “FF an d FG want the same farmers who never leave their own parish and so have a very closed world view to vote. Not those who left the country and actually might see what other countries can get right and actually look for a change.”

            That’s a post from elsewhere in the thread, maybe I’m reading it incorrectly, but it really seems to me to imply that farmers are stupid and the emigrants are bringing the wisdom of other countries back to us. And the poster above said that emigrants include “the most accomplished”. If the most accomplished are gone, what does that leave? The least accomplished. But really and truly, that’s not the issue. I look forward to further psychoanalysis.

          6. MoyestWithExcitement

            “No Moyest, I really do believe that people living in an area should be the ones choosing the local representative.”

            It just seems arbitrary. I mean, I’m living with the consequences of people *I* didn’t vote for being in power. Lots of people are. This ‘not having to live with the consequences’ line is sort of odd. What does that actually mean? If they vote for FG, they should suffer? That they’re only voting for fun and would consider voting for a party that would destroy the country because they won’t have to deal with it?

            “That’s a post from elsewhere in the thread”

            That quote is saying that people who never leave their parish have a closed world view and that people who have travelled will have know of different perspectives and opinions. That is not close to saying Irish people who haven’t emigrated are stupid.

            “maybe I’m reading it incorrectly,”

            You definitely are.

            “And the poster above said that emigrants include “the most accomplished””

            The quote was; ‘amongst them some of the most hard done by & the most accomplished.’ He said *some* of the emigrants include *some* of the most accomplished. That does not mean all the most accomplished are emigrants nor does it mean that all the emigrants are all the most accomplished.

            “I look forward to further psychoanalysis.”

            Weellll. I could note the sarcasm there and how it leads me to think that I was right about this topic being an emotional one for you rather than a logical one. I won’t though. I might point out instead that you reading into things that weren’t there, as I’ve pointed out above, is what leads me to think I was onto something. This isn’t about concern for your fellow citizens, it’s because, for whatever reason, you’re personally offended.

        2. LW

          Haha you’ve caught me, I hate anyone who had the temerity to emigrate, and this is my rich revenge. I’ve explained what I mean about living with the consequences of your vote before, but here we go again: the politicians voted for will draft and enact laws that will directly affect the people living in Ireland. Therefore they should be chosen by those people.
          Thank you for not noting that stuff you went to the trouble of typing out though.

  7. Robert

    “The creation of another 5 seat constituency seems absolutely ridiculous to me”

    For the Seanad perhaps.

    1. LW

      Still hard to see the point. Also, hard to justify creating a constituency for those living abroad to vote in the Seanad, when the majority of us living at home have no vote there

      1. Robert

        Yeah true, that’s a reform that has to happen first before we take care of the diaspora. Totally unfair that I don’t get to vote because I didn’t go to the right university. Insane!

  8. ahjayzis

    The whole 18 month thing – I’m gone 3 years and I’m still on the register? How are they supposed to know I’m no longer in the country and stop me voting?

    I voted in the Marriage Referendum – don’t even try telling me I don’t have a right to a say in whether I can get married in my home country because I pay income tax elsewhere.

    1. Robert

      I think it’s fair enough because you don’t have to live with the consequences. To flip it on it’s head you’d also be entitled to vote ‘No’ in that referendum. Would that be fair? You’d still be able to get married to somebody of your own gender where you’re living if allowed but not at home. Just because you “feel strongly” about an issue doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a say on it.

      1. ahjayzis

        Living with the consequences of the last few elections is the reason I live abroad.

        And yes, it would be fair – it’s still my country. If the people most affected by government policies – people who physically have to move country to make ends meet – have no voice, what incentive is there for governments to stop relying on the ‘safety valve’ of emigration? Again, one in six Irish people live abroad and it’s not even an election issue!

        1. Robert

          “one in six Irish people live abroad and it’s not even an election issue!”

          It’s a huge election issue my friend. The effect of a huge chunk of 25 to 35 y/o missed is palpable. Myself and many others have had to say a tearful goodbye to friends who *won’t* be back. Again because you’re not here you’re probably not aware of just how much of a big deal it is for us. If you’re not aware of that, what other material issues are you not aware of?

          1. classter

            It isn’t a real election issue though, Robert.

            In the same way that politicians largely ignore the segments of the working class that don;t vote, they ignore the thoughts of emigrants too.

            The feelings of those of whom have family/friends abroad is not the same thing.

        2. LW

          Well you voted in the last few, and it didn’t exactly pan out, why would it be any different this time around? It’s hard to swallow that the people most affected by government policies are those who have to move. I’d argue people who don’t have the option to move, are more strongly, and continuously, affected. To say it’s not an election issue is also wrong, most of the talking heads I’ve seen so far have brought up emigration. Voices from the audience on debates always reference kids moved abroad, or planning to

        3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Hmm, its a tricky one. I don’t live where I was born but I also don’t think that I should be allowed to vote there if I haven’t lived there for a certain period of time, regardless of how much I support or decry a particular policy. For a while, I wasn’t able to vote anywhere, which was odd, but then again, I think that was fair in a way. You need to draw the line at some point or you have people who have lived abroad for 10 years voting through rose-tinted glasses to keep everything the same in the old country.

  9. Zaccone

    No representation without taxation is entirely fair. But I can also see why expats would like to have a say in Irish elections. The solution is to let them opt-in to paying taxes in Ireland while living abroad. Something like the US income tax system for expats, except optional.

    I would have no problem with diaspora voting rights as long as they’re willing to pay to cover the costs for it. Say, a 1% tax on their earnings while abroad.

    I wonder how many of the Diaspora now clamoring for the right to vote would actually do so if they had to pay for the costs associated with a new 5 seat constituency, and admin costs of the voting itself.

    1. ahjayzis

      Do we get any of that rebated for the fact we don’t use the health care system, libraries, community centres, schools, emergency services, water, or anything else that tax pays for?

      Do people on social welfare or students need to surrender part of it or is their vote cancelled until they find employment?
      I mean, I could be at home drawing the dole for the last three years (I work in construction!) and get a vote, but I leave to support myself and I am deprived of the right to render a verdict on the governance that gave rise to that circumstance?

      I don’t intend to live abroad forever, I’m home every few months – there is a difference between me and someone who left 40 years ago and hasn’t set foot in the country since.

      1. Robert

        I am sympathetic to your position – but how could we differentiate between yourself and tax exiles lets say?

          1. Robert

            I think if you choose to cheat the nation you live in you have some nerve calling yourself a citizen of it.

      2. Zaccone

        You think paying 1% tax would pay for schools, emergency services etc? No, that’s what paying 50% odd tax a year in Ireland pays for.

        The 1% ‘expat tax’ would simply cover the cost of administration, and representation, for the expat vote.

        This is exactly my point though – if expats actually cared about making a difference in Irish politics, is them paying for the cost of their representation that much to ask?

        1. ahjayzis

          People who live in Louth but work in Newry can vote, I assume? Would this surcharge apply to them too?

          That’s a pedantic point – buying a pint or a carton of milk is paying tax for schools, emergency services etc. There are thousands of people outside the tax net altogether. Tax is not the qualification for anyone else to have a vote – why just emigrants? Americans do NOT pay tax in two countries, there are bilateral agreements in place that prevent that – and they can vote in every election, WITHOUT having to get a plane. France elected a Senator who lives full time in Dublin FFS.

          What makes Ireland different? Apart from the fact our expat population is MASSIVE and more directly correlated to the standard of governance – but that’s an argument for enfranchising them, not silencing them. You’re reducing my entire citizenship and stake in the country down to monetary terms, but had I not left I would be COSTING the state money.

          1. Zaccone

            So you’re saying you demand a vote, but are refusing to pay for the costs of said vote. Just to be clear, you’d rather the people currently living in Ireland pay more taxes to pay for your vote.

            Gotcha.

          2. LW

            Funnily enough, what you’re arguing for is the ability to both leave and cost the state money. That’s not strictly true about US citizens not paying tax abroad, they are liable for taxes at home if they earn above a threshold. I don’t personally agree with the representation for taxation point, I think it should be based on residency. I do think however, that it would be fair enough to expect the diaspora looking to create the new constituency, and have the ability to vote in it, to fund it.

  10. Green fingered

    If either of the two gents running for the Seanad get elected are they obliged to move home or will they ring in their contribution, like a lot of our current senators.

  11. Harry Molloy

    Just realised that yer man Barry was in college in NUIG around the same time as me.

    He was also on that cooking reality show with Nigella Lawson a year or two ago. Did really well in the first round, not so well at all in the second!

    Nice lad. Don’t agree with him on this though.

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