Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has condemned the Government for failing to extend the right of postal voting to those on holidays or pilgrimage on the day date of the next referendum.
The Donegal deputy also pointed out it will also directly affect those students studying in UK based colleges.
He says the anomaly will also affect citizens ordinarily resident in Ireland but working for foreign-based countries who may be abroad on polling day, whereas if the company was Irish based they would be eligible for a postal vote.
The matter was raised in the Dáil by numerous Deputies in the course of this week’s debates but, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government refused to make any of the necessary changes.
Deputy Gallagher said “The inaction of the Government will result in thousands of voters being denied their right to cast their vote on the 25th of May referendum.”
Pat the Cope added the Minister in his reply to my Dáil question stated “while electoral law is subject to ongoing review I have no proposals at present to extend existing arrangements for postal voting to cover those on holidays or pilgrimage, studying abroad or working abroad but are otherwise ordinarily resident in the state”
“This is extremely disappointing news and demonstrates a total lack of understanding from both the Minister and Government – the regulations governing postal voting are long overdue a full review in order to meet the needs of a changing society.
“Thousands of citizens live in Ireland but work abroad a number of days a week; likewise thousands of students study in UK based colleges and the largest sector of the electorate affected by this decision not to change the guidelines are those on holidays on polling day.”
Pat the Cope said we are one of very few countries in Europe that does not extend the right of voting to those on holidays at the time of polling, and this is incredible in this day and age that we as a country cannot extend a voting right to them.
“Other countries allow for early voting – whereby you can vote weeks in advance if it is the case you will be abroad on polling day, while other countries simply extend a postal vote right to you if you are abroad on holidays on the day of the election or referendum.
“These voting rights could also encompass students, those employed abroad but foreign companies but the Government has failed to show any willingness to make the necessary changes or show any empathy to those that are being denied their voting right.”
He concluded “This is a Government that is all spin and no substance, a Government that talks about change but changes nothing and a Government that simply does not understand ordinary day living and the changes in lifestyles that exist in our country”