The concept of a “hierarchy of Irishness” is set to be discussed at a conference on citizenship.
Campaigner Emma DeSouza has questioned why those in Northern Ireland cannot vote for the Irish president and called for a reform of the current electoral system.
The discussion will come at a digital event on March 1 around Irish citizenship, the role of emigrants and voting rights.
The Republic’s Minister for the Diaspora Colm Brophy and Minister for Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan will be among those in attendance at the conference organised by VotingRights.ie and the Clinton Institute for American Studies at UCD, in association with Epic: The Emigration Museum and Vica (Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad).
Ms DeSouza is set to chair a session on Northern Voices and the extension of voting rights to citizens north of the border.
“As more and more people in Northern Ireland claim their birthright to Irish citizenship it’s essential that we establish what that citizenship entails and explore how to fully engage and recognise the legitimacy of all Irish citizens both in Northern Ireland and abroad,” she said.
“The Irish nation is broad and diverse and a most essential proponent in what it means to be an Irish citizen.
“As someone who has successfully campaigned to reaffirm Irish citizens’ rights in Northern Ireland it strikes me that the current electoral system in Ireland perpetuates a hierarchy of Irishness.
“That those of us who live half an hour up the road or across the Irish sea cannot vote for the President of Ireland is an outdated and discriminatory practice that undervalues the commitment and contributions of Irish citizens resident outside the State.
“The people of Ireland have taken progressive leaps in shirking the once conservative shroud which dominated Irish society in order to carve out a more inclusive, rights-based society – embracing a more inclusive concept of Irish citizenship is a logical next step for a country ushering in change.”
Other discussions on the day will focus on voices of emigrants, the constitutional and legal issues around citizenship and electoral reform.
Dr Liam Kennedy, of the Clinton Institute at UCD, added: “For too long the issue of emigrant enfranchisement has been pushed to the margins as Irish governments celebrate ‘our global diaspora’.
“It is time to consider how we can enlarge and honour our ideas of democratic citizenship and test the state’s political will to give emigrants voting rights.”