Bill to permit half a million foreign residents to vote in Dail elections

Those entitled to vote will not need to be citizens of the State.

Representation ‘would be the equivalent of 18 Deputies.’

Sligo News File Online

Half a million foreigners would be allowed a vote in Dail and European elections if a Bill rolled out today is passed.

The bill piloted through the Dail by left-wing TD Ruth Coppinger

Ruth Coppinger, TD

also provides that those entitled to vote will not need to be citizens of the country.

Known as the Electoral (Extension of Voting Rights to Non-Irish Citizens) Bill 2017, the legislation is designed to extend voting rights in elections to Dail Eireann and the European Parliament “to all adults ordinarily resident in the State.”

Coppinger said, “We are proposing the Bill because there are 500,000 people living in this country who are not citizens.

“These people live and work in our communities, and their children go to our schools. They pay taxes to the State and are affected by all of the national decisions taken in this House, yet most are not permitted to vote in elections to the national Parliament, which sets the taxes that they pay, the laws that they must live by and the policies around key issues such as employment rights, wage rates, education, health and housing.”

According to the 2011 census, almost 12% of the State’s population is made up of people who are not citizens of the State. These people are not represented although their representation would be the equivalent of 18 Deputies, she said.

Highlighting that almost 23% of those living in her constituency were not born in the country, she said: “18% of its population is made up of people who are not citizens, and 16% of Africans and 9.3% of Asians in the State live in Fingal.”

She said, “26.4% of 25-year-olds to 44-year-olds are not citizens of this country.”

The figures will come as a surprise to an electorate that is being regularly told that access to the country and job market is tightly controlled. Thousands of young Irish people cannot secure a job, while wage rates for more are at rock bottom owing to competition from cheap labour sources.

Coppinger says it’s her view non-nationals should have the right to keep their citizenship and not have to take on Irish citizenship to vote.

I am mindful, she said, that our Bill would not give people a right to vote in referendums, “as this would require a constitutional change, but it should be considered.

“If we can point to countries that allow this such as New Zealand, where people who are resident there for a year are allowed to participate fully and to have full voting rights. We should do the same because we have a huge problem. When we look around the Chamber, we see that we have a very white, male and older representation. This will not change unless we give people the right to participate fully in this democracy.”

In response to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl who asked if the Bill was opposed, Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach Regina Doherty replied No.