The government is to hold a referendum on whether the Irish living abroad should be allowed to vote in the election for the President of Ireland.
The decision was announced by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Sunday during his visit to the United States. People in Northern Ireland may also be allowed to take part.
The Minister for the Diaspora, Joe McHugh, said one of the major problems would be quantifying the number of people living abroad who would be eligible. He told RTÉ: “This is a massive piece of work. It is going to be ground breaking.
“Especially at a time when other countries are becoming more isolationist. It is Ireland looking outward.”
Mr Kenny said the proposal would be an “historic recognition of the strong and enduring links between Ireland and all our citizens, wherever they are in the world.”
Speaking in Philadelphia, where he made the announcement, he said: “Today’s announcement is a profound recognition of the importance that Ireland attaches to all of our citizens, wherever they may be. It is an opportunity for us to make our country stronger by allowing all of our citizens resident outside the State, including our emigrants, to vote in future presidential elections.”
“I am especially pleased to be making this announcement as we prepare for our worldwide celebration of St Patrick’s Day and of all that is Irish.”
The government will now publish a discussion document setting out the various options on how the referendum might be held, the timing and who would be allowed to vote in future presidential elections. It’s highly unlikely that any changes could be made in time for the election next year.