Councillors from Mid Ulster joined their counterparts from Derry City & Strabane, Newry, Mourne & Down and Fermanagh & Omagh in bringing their campaign for votes for all Irish citizens in future Irish Presidential elections to the Dail.
Just before Christmas local delegates protested outside the Irish Parliament over the Dublin government’s failure to implement a Constitutional Convention’s recommendation that it hold a referendum on voting rights for all Irish citizens - regardless of where they were born.
The protest followed a Sinn Fin motion passed by four councils in the North last month in support of votes for all Irish people.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: “Councillors from four of the largest councils in the North, that is... Mid Ulster District Council, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, all of which support this position, took part in a protest outside the Dail at the government’s deliberate long-fingering of this issue.”
Referring to a recent ceremony for the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad, he added: “Michael D reminded us that the journeys of the Irish emigrants are testimony to the creativity and resilience of all who have left our shores over previous centuries.
“He told us that the emigrants live fulfilling lives in their respective countries, but remain true to, and proud of, their Irish heritage. However, they cannot vote in this country, unlike the case with citizens of other states.
“A few weeks ago Fianna Fail and Fine Gael voted against a Sinn Fein proposal in the Seanad to allow such voting.
“The Minister of State [for International Affairs and the Diaspora, Joe McHugh] said that an options paper is being prepared. When will this options paper be published and will the government allocate time for it to be debated in the Dail? Why has the Taoiseach changed his position on this issue?
“He told me previously that citizens of the diaspora and the North would be given voting rights.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny replied: “This matter was the subject of discussion at the Cabinet sub-committee a few days ago.
“We have a Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora, the second person to hold that position, and obviously we have a great deal of interest in this issue.”
Mr McHugh previously suggested a referendum would take place next year in time for votes in the 2018 poll.