Dan Boyle: Home To Revolt


From top: Thousands returned home to vote in last week’s referendum: Dan Boyle

There’s a huge temptation to read too much significance into the results of the Repeal the Eighth referendum. However, as giving into temptation is pretty much what we do these days, I will stand first in line in the queue for Bishop Kevin Doran’s confessional, to ask what I see as some pertinent questions.

The first is whether our Constitution continues to be fit for purpose. There is a slew of proposals that have come from the Citizens’ Assembly that deserve, even demand, answering.

As I was a one time member of the All Party Oireachtas Committee on The Constitution, there are plenty dusty reports on a shelf somewhere that contain many similar, good, recommendations.

Given the scale of change being suggested, would this demand best be met through drafting a new Constitution?

I think probably not. It would be a mistake to assume that largely the same coalition of voters will fall in line for every subsequent proposed change.

Besides, outside of some glaring provisions, Bunreacht na hÉireann is not such a bad document. It is progressive in many respects, let down by the inclusion of some provisions included to placate those who were once given too much deference in our country.

Before considering the architecture of our Constitution should we not be asking who The Constitution is for?

The image of returning emigrants, during the last two referenda, fed into a change is possible narrative. It was an encouraging narrative fuelled by thousands of inspiring images. Given the scale of the victory margin in each referendum their presence wasn’t strictly needed, although their visual support was vital.

Technically many of these were illegal votes, as some of the people involved didn’t fulfil the necessary residency requirements. Shouldn’t these provisions be the next legislative/constitutional changes to be considered?

Irish citizens should have a right to engage in these discussions, and then act upon, any change mooted in our Constitution, from wherever on the planet they find themselves at any given time.

Such a change would present a huge logistical challenge. More Irish citizens live outside our State than within it. Some may never have physically lived here. Of those who did emigrate, the longer the time away the further will be the ability to know and understand our country as it is today. Those Irish citizens who voted for Donald Trump could be contributing to shaping a very different Ireland in the future.

And yet these provisions seem to operate without much difficulty in other countries.

With an appropriate time stipulation, say no more than five/ten years living outside the State, any Irish citizen should be able to register and vote at their nearest embassy/consulate.

This should give a right to vote on The Constitution, vote for their choice as our first citizen, and possibly even for emigrant representation in the Seanad. I think that most would agree that the taxation/representation axis will continue to hold true for elections to Dáil Éireann.

We need to do is better recognise our history as a migrant nation, while attempting to hold on to the link that binds together our citizens throughout the World.

I believe we could hold a civilised debate on this subject. That is if you ignore the fact that I make this argument as something of a Trojan Horse, being more eager to revisit the 27th amendment to the Constitution on Citizenship made in 2004.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


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52 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Home To Revolt

  1. ollie

    Dan you were deputy leader of the Seanad when e voting machknes were scrapped because it took the cute hoor tallymen out of the equation. so we went back to paper.
    nowadays i can bank online, order a passport and do numerous other secure tasks, yet you dont even consider on line voting as an option.

    1. Repealer Bertie

      The evoting machines were scrapped because they were unreliable, the results could not be verified and they lacked transparency. It would take quite a PR job to convince the Irish electorate to try them again.

      1. Bob

        I’ve yet to see an electronic voting system that wasn’t awful.
        Most of them can’t even do a proper recount.

        The security of the other things you do online is also terrible and unless you are ever the victim of identity theft you wont realise exactly bad it is, even though it is barely “good enough”

  2. Ina.

    Dan, you said the vote would be narrow. I thought it’d be narrow too. Why the landslide? What’s your assessment?

    1. Dan Boyle

      I canvassed during the last week in Cork and found no sign at all of a No vote. It had seem the No vote had collapsed. The No campaign failed to convince any declared Yes to consider No, a small number were brought into the don’t know column. The Yes campaign was positive. The No negative. The momentum over the final ten days became unstoppable.

    2. Martin

      I was 99% sure the yes side would win based on my canvassing for the yes side, no voters did exist but they were by far alot less of them then yes voters.

      We could go into a estate of say 150 houses and come out with not one NO vote.

      Obviously my experience was only the county I was canvassing in (not Dublin) so i couldn’t say 100% for yes, but I was pretty certain

  3. bisted

    ‘…Technically many of these were illegal votes’…at last Dan…something you have unique and extensive knowledge of…

    1. Dan Boyle

      Every vote I ever made was legal and openly admitted to. Honesty Bisted. You should try it sometimes.

  4. Martin

    Honestly, if you think enough people travelled to Ireland to swing the vote in favour of yes then you need to take off the tinfoil hat.

    The yes side wouldn’t have won without the support of the citizens living and working in Ireland. Thats what won the vote both in rural and urban area’s. Sure people travelling might have brought it up a percentage at VERY most, but yes still would have won without them in a landslide.

    Also, you do know the no side had people travelling too right?

      1. Martin

        my comment is showing a little bit out of context,. I was replying to somebody who claimed the yes vote won because of people illegally travelling…but they have deleted the post since.

          1. mildred st meadowlark

            He’s persistent, I’ll give him that. I’m almost impressed…


        1. Bob

          > my comment is showing a little bit out of context

          This is why better websites have a system of deleting posts that leaves some kind of not saying “Comment deleted” preferably with an explanation too.

          The way Broadsheet deletes comments completely with no explanation is not a good solution.

          Although I should be careful what I wish for or they’ll switch over to a more modern system that is worse in a whole lot of other ways.

    1. bisted

      …I heard a bunch of Welsh evangelicals travelled over a few weeks before the vote…they registered to vote at the addresses hosting them and were able to vote ‘No’ on referendum day…their names will remain on the register so they can travel over again for the Presidential election…technically legal, of course…

      1. italia'90

        I had 4 family members travel over too, all Yes, long weekend for them. Was great craic. How we danced.

      2. Daisy Chainsaw

        How many of them were there? Did they all have Irish passports? It’s pointless getting a bit shook about it tbh. They were shy of about 700,000 of them to make a real difference.

        1. bisted

          …no Daisy…these were UK passport holders…mercenaries paid to interfere with the electoral system…I believe one of them was an ex-MP…they’ll be back Swansea or Cardiff by now…

          1. The Old Boy

            They did well to register without proving their nationality. I’m not saying it’s beyond the bounds of possibility, but it seems most unlikely.

      3. rotide

        Remember when Trump claimed there were a million illegals voting in the pres election?

        Remember how we all laughed at the patent nonsense?

        This is that.

        1. bisted

          …ah com’on…surely there’s one can back me…surely there’s one who knows that if you take the form to a police station and have a valid Irish/British passport you can register to vote immediately on a supplementary register…LCD?…Bodger?…SenDan?

  5. Starina

    Absolutely agree that Irish expats should be able to vote. Many thousands left because of the mess the government made, seeking employment and better lives. This left behind those who benefited from the mess, who continue to vote in the same parties over and over again. It will only prolong our pain if we continue to deny the vote to expats.

    As an immigrant into Ireland, it still shocks me that Ireland doesn’t honour expat votes. I can still vote in the States, where I was spawned, even though I live in Ireland, *because I’m American*. There’s no quibbling over “well, you moved away so you’re not really American anymore” — I am allowed to vote there because it’s my right as a citizen. (and fupp people’s fantasy correlation between taxes and votes)

      1. Bob

        These things should have a balance of rights and responsibilities.
        It’s an interesting question to ask how do we establish that balance if we extend the franchise?
        Living under the politicians you vote for seems like a reasonable start.

        Americans are unusual case, and they are held responsible to a certain extent wherever they go, there are at least a few american laws and taxes they must obey no matter where they live.
        I’m bored enough to post on Broadsheet but definitely not bored enough to look up how Americans are responsible for paying taxes even when outside America (but I vaguely recall that if they are already paying local taxes in Europe they won’t owe much if anything because of exemptions and double taxation).

        1. Dinny Do Well?

          U.S. citizens are required to file taxes on worldwide income regardless of their residency. They may end up paying taxes in two jurisdictions if certain limits are exceeded, and remember although Ireland has a double taxation agreement with the the U.S. Federal government (IRS), it does NOT have any such agreement with State Franchise Tax Boards. Americans are required to file state and national (or Federal) taxes. You can, in fact, end up paying significant amounts.

          It is also a criminal offence to renounce your U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes, and it will cost you about 2 grand for the privilege of even trying.

      2. johnny

        you can’t disenfranchise someone for tax reasons,there’s simply no correlation btw taxes/voting none,isin’t Lowry due back in court (June 6th) over his alleged tax offenses once again !

  6. Daisy Chainsaw

    Rather than citizens/passport holders voting, I’d prefer ex-pats having the right to vote for up to 10 years after departure.

    1. The Old Boy

      That’s the UK system – you get 15 years after leaving the country.

      The problem in Ireland – as always – is the North. It would raise hell if an Irishman born in Dundalk but living in Newry could vote, but his Irishman neighbour born in Newry couldn’t.

      1. Bob

        Yes, well said.
        People ask interesting questions about why, and the North is often the answer to why not.

        Also none of the parties in the Republic want to hand any extra votes to Sinn Féin if they can avoid it.

  7. dav

    Anytime I hear that argument against ex-pats having a vote I’m reminded of the scene in “The Field” where the Bull gives out about people who emigrated. Nothing but bitterness and ignorance.

    1. papa p

      … and maybe logic?
      Why one earth should someone who doesn’t live in a country have a right to vote?
      “Because they used to live there”
      Fantastic thinking.

        1. Cian

          Why should an ex-pad not get a vote? because the changes don’t affect them (directly) as they are outside the jurisdiction.
          Why should an ex-pad get a vote? “because they are Irish” huh? but why should they get a vote?

          1. johnny

            its tiresome,tedious,boring and dreary to ask the same question numerous times in one comment, diplomats,armed forces,aid workers and clergy,H1 Visa holders furthering Ireland’s space industry by working at NASA,all Irish and outside the ‘jurisdiction’ but…….
            Why should an ex-pad not get a vote?
            Why should an ex-pad get a vote?
            but why should they get a vote?
            dan’s piece touches lightly on ‘jus soli’ or “right of the soil” or birthright citizenship,not plastic paddies voting !

  8. johnny

    Great piece Dan,but jus soli isn’t honored in any European county,only USA and Canada.

  9. Dinny Do Well?

    Just wait until U.S. ex-pats start voting for Sinn Féin and you’ll see how long this bogus argument lasts. Just like Obama’s use of Facebook data without informed consent to win, the whingeing only started when Trump won.

    I flew to Ireland from the UK on Thursday. I returned today. I saw not ONE REPEAL jumper at either DUB or LHR. It’s all Irish Times bollix.

  10. Dinny Do Well?

    Dan, here’s a suggestion. Why don’t you and your politico confederates get together to build a society and economy so Irish people don’t have to emigrate in the first place…

Comments are closed.

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