Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

'Allowing those in Northern Ireland to vote in southern elections is witless and harmful'

Irish President Michael D Higgins. The Republic's constitutional think-tank has recommended Irish citizens in Northern Ireland should be given the right to vote in Irish presidential elections
Irish President Michael D Higgins. The Republic's constitutional think-tank has recommended Irish citizens in Northern Ireland should be given the right to vote in Irish presidential elections
Irish President Michael D Higgins. The Republic's constitutional think-tank has recommended Irish citizens in Northern Ireland should be given the right to vote in Irish presidential elections
Irish President Michael D Higgins. The Republic's constitutional think-tank has recommended Irish citizens in Northern Ireland should be given the right to vote in Irish presidential elections

The decision in the Irish Constitutional Convention on Sunday to allow voters in Northern Ireland to take part in southern presidential elections is witless and harmful. It was decided to add one million Ulster electors to the Republic’s rolls which would gerrymander the result, with non-residents selecting a head of state - who would become a rival in legitimacy to the Queen.

The practical problems are even more awkward. Will the Northern Ireland electoral roll be purchased and will sight of an Irish passport be required or simply proof of Irish nationality in the form of your granny’s birth certificate?

The dropping in 1998 of the Articles 2 & 3 claim, approved by a mammoth percentage (94%) was warmly welcomed. What was removed was the irredentist claim to another EU member’s territory, one that gave political justification to the IRA over decades.

If the Irish Government wishes to extend voting rights to Irish Passport holders worldwide by way of postal ballot, that's up to them. However the extension of voting rights to all residents of Northern Ireland is a hare-brained scheme which effectively unpicks the Belfast Agreement.

Michael McGimpsey who launched a legal challenge to the claim in 1985 has wisely remarked, “The image would be then, it’s really Articles 2 and 3 in their old form, that the national territory is the island of Ireland.” Even the Alliance Party has cautioned against the move, saying “the Agreement did not create joint authority or sovereignty. Instead it stresses Northern Ireland as part of the UK ... it would alter the constitutional balance”.

At the same time as this push north, two elements of southern society which used to contain significant numbers of northerners are threatened: Instead of pursuing an unnecessary political strategy such as this, time would be better served by examining why Trinity College Dublin, where 25% of students in my day came from Northern Ireland, now has 2%,

Rather than giving northern unionists a vote they don't need or want, Enda Kenny should be giving southern protestants a voice which they do need, such as in the Irish Senate vote on Friday.

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