By Noreen Bowden | May 28, 2010
The European Voice Newspaper published a letter I sent in regarding one of the effects of Ireland’s policy of disenfranchising its emigrants. In it I argued that Ireland’s denial of emigrant voting rights effectively leaves Irish citizens disadvantaged as European citizens of a lesser status.
The letter is on the EuropeanVoice.com website as well as in the newspaper. It’s behind a paywall (though it will be available next week for registered users), so here is the text as I submitted it to the paper:
Your article, “The muzzled British diaspora in the EU” (discussed in this article), highlights the plight of British expats who cannot vote after fifteen years abroad. Irish citizens have it even worse: we lose all rights to vote as soon as we move abroad.
The situation also means that there are two tiers of European citizenship: most citizens of EU member states are entitled to elect MEPs no matter where in the world they live. Irish citizens, however, lose their rights to representation at EU level if they move to a non-EU country. Surely there should be some way to ensure equality of European representation for European citizens?
It’s my understanding that the EU takes no interest in the expat voting policies of individual nations. It seems to me that when you have a parliamentary body representing citizens of an entity such as the EU, however, there should be equal access among citizens of that entity to representation as a matter of fairness. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a larger issue in the years to come, particularly set against the current global context of increasing diaspora engagement and the rising number of nations allowing their emigrants to vote.
I’ll be talking more about these issues next month, as one of the keynote speakers at the Europeans Throughout the World conference in Bratislava.