Irish Expats Should Have Voting Rights

Irish expat voting

If expats from other countries have no restrictions on voting rights, why can’t I as an Irish woman living in Spain, vote Yes for same-sex marriage, asks Karen Conway?


Inspired by the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum and motivated by the desire to marry my partner of six years in Ireland, I decided to use the wonderful tool that is ‘social media’ to highlight the lack of voting systems in place for Irish expats living abroad. I live in Spain.

I was invited to speak on a very well-known Irish radio station, I attracted the attention of Senator Katherine Zappone and WCB (We’re Coming Back) Ireland on Twitter – however, it just didn’t seem to be enough to get the word out. So I decided to take things into my own hands and create a petition.

I started off with Facebook, where I rallied my friends, a variety of Irish expat pages and two major LGBT magazines, one of them being GCN and The Outmost, who were only too happy to help out. In the meantime, having written to two local newspapers, I was delighted to discover that what I had to say interested them and that it would make the paper the following week.

Before I go any further, I would like to clarify that this petition has been created on behalf of myself and my fellow expats, who, and I would like to stress were not only born, but bred in Ireland too.

I left Ireland just a little over two years ago because of job relocation in hand, and I am still adjusting to the lifestyle, attitude and not to mention new language of Spain. I have befriended a host of other expats from all over the world, (Italian, French, Canadian and American, to name but a few) who were just as outraged to discover that Irish expats, despite being in the exact same situation as them, loose all their rights to vote almost immediately when they emigrate. Ireland, I discovered, is one of the few countries that prohibits its expats from voting 18 months after leaving its shores.

UK expats, on the other hand, can vote for up to 15 years after leaving, and In December of last year a Bill to restore voting rights to all British expats was given permission to move onto the next stage. Meanwhile, Italian, French and Spanish expats have no voting limitations; they simply register with their relevant embassies.

So, why can’t Irish expats do the same?

As an Irish expat who wants to vote in this referendum that is key to my life, and my country, I feel very let down by my government. Who is representing us Irish expats on a political level? Does anyone even care? What do our fellow countrymen and women think?

Ireland is renowned for being young, progressive and innovative, yet in this area we are very much behind. My hope is that this petition will grow to the point where this issue can no longer be ignored.

You can sign my petition here!




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