Irish people who live abroad to get vote

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

VOTING rights will be given for to Irish people living abroad for the first time, a minister pledged yesterday, writes Alan Murdoch.

But John Browne, a junior environment minister, emphasised that the change would require a referendum to amend the Irish constitution. He did not specify whether the Fianna Fail-Labour coalition's proposal would apply to Dail elections, presidential polls, or only for the upper house, the Seanad.

Mr Browne told the Dail that the need to change the constitution to allow emigrants to vote, as opposed to those out of the country temporarily, had been underlined by the attorney general.

Opposing an amendment from a Democratic Left MP at the committee stage of an electoral Bill, Mr Browne said that a commitment made in January's coalition Programme for Government would be acted on. He indicated that a constitutional amendment and enabling legislation could be expected during this government, assuming the coalition runs its full term. Eamon Gilmore, who proposed the amendment, had sought to give emigrants a vote in Irish presidential elections.

Emigrant lobbying groups in the UK, United States and Australia have suggested that 250,000 emigrants could be affected. They have claimed the lack of voting rights breaches the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and may contravene the Irish constitution.