ONE person quits Ireland for Britain every 24 minutes, alarming new emigration stats reveal.
In the month that Ireland is due to debate giving voting rights to its citizens living abroad, it emerged that Britain is still the most popular destination for those leaving Ireland.
Senior Irish politician Mark Daly told The Irish Post that the Government must now respond by giving the Irish abroad a political voice rather than a “tokenistic” vote for the President.
This week’s figures from the Central Statistics Office show that 420 people come to start a new life in Britain every week — the highest numbers in 22 years.
That compares with 300 going to Australia, the second most popular destination.
The CSO report may also cast serious doubt on the perception that Ireland’s economy is recovering, as the number of people leaving home hits record levels.
The continuing outflow of people has strengthened calls for the Irish abroad to be given a say in what happens in Ireland.
Responding to the figures, Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly said: “The first thing the Government needs to look at now is giving them a voice in Leinster House, both for those who emigrated a number of years ago and those who emigrated this year.
“To disenfranchise millions of Irish citizens who are living overseas is an affront to their rights as citizens of the Republic.”
He claimed giving the Irish abroad the right to vote for Ireland’s President, which will be discussed by the Constitutional Convention at the end of the month, was “the bare minimum” and “almost lip service”.
“The President is not able to act as freely as a person who is democratically elected to represent the Irish overseas, to be a voice for them inside Leinster House and say things that are unpopular and unpleasant for the Government to hear,” added Senator Daly, who is his party’s spokesperson for the Irish overseas.
Some 89,000 people emigrated from Ireland in the year to April, up from 87,000 in the previous 12 months, this week’s CSO figures reveal.
Around 51,000 of those who left were Irish nationals, while the remainder were foreign nationals who returned home or went to find work elsewhere.
The CSO report also shows that numbers coming to Britain has increased from 19,000 in 2011/12 to 21,900, the highest level since 1991.
Asked how the Irish Government would respond to the exodus of its citizens, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said this year’s Emigrant Support Programme budget will be maintained at the 2012 level of €11.6million.
Pressure is also mounting to give thousands of people who live outside Ireland a say in the Dáil.
The Federation of Irish Societies and Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad, a London-based lobby group, both argue that new Dáil seats specifically for the Irish abroad should be created.
This week our online poll asked Irish Post readers who they would choose if they were allowed to vote in Irish General Elections.
It shows that the Irish in Britain would get behind Fianna Fail if they had a vote. Almost two-in-five (38.2 per cent) of the 476 respondents voted for the party.
Sinn Fein also fared well in the poll. Roughly a third (32.8 per cent) voted for the republican party.
Ireland’s current governing parties, Fine Gael and Labour, fared less well, attracting only 6.9 per cent and 5.7 per cent of votes respectively.
Labour was beaten by the Greens, which was backed by 6.3 per cent of voters.
Meanwhile, one-in-ten said they would not vote if they could.