ONE of the first promises Taoiseach Enda Kenny made on last week’s visit to the United States was that Irish passport holders living abroad could apply to vote in presidential elections after 2018. The announcement came so out of the blue that many have been left wondering if it was another one of his solo runs like the ill-fated attempt to abolish the Seanad a number of years ago.
Already, members of the so-called establishment parties, mainly Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour, are worried about how they would get their own candidates elected in such a scenario. Their main concern is that unchallenged Sinn Féin rhetoric in the North and internationally, where they have well-established fundraising networks, would swing the populist vote their way.
Notwithstanding that, whoever would get elected through such a system might be presiding over a country that the majority of voters do not even reside in, leaving those who actually live in the Republic of Ireland having to deal with any unintended consequences this might bring.
Doing this for presidential elections might be a step too far and not strictly democratic. What might be better, in the context of the long-overdue reform of the Seanad, would be to reserve a certain number of seats for the diaspora, voted for by Irish passport holders abroad, so that their voices would be heard in political debate here. The President is precluded from such involvement.