THE IRISH in Britain could be given a voice in the Dáil under new proposals released by Ireland’s leading opposition party.
The plans would see the Irish abroad given limited voting rights and their own minister.
In an attempt to win over the country’s sprawling emigrant communities Fianna Fáil has outlined plans they say would dramatically overhaul how the Irish abroad interact with home.
The party’s Spokesperson for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora, Senator Mark Daly said the policy must “allow all Irish citizens the right to vote in our Presidential elections” and give citizens living abroad parliamentary representation in the Seanad.
But Sinn Féin has blasted the new proposals, describing the plans as ‘hypocritical’.
The party’s Dublin South West TD and Diaspora spokesperson Seán Crowe said: “It is a bit hypocritical of Fianna Fáil to be supporting positions that they never implemented or took on board while they were in power for so much of the recent past.
“Due to the economic crisis and the mismanagement of our economy by successive Governments in recent years we have again seen Irish people forced to leave this island and join the Irish Diaspora around the world in huge numbers.”
Fianna Fáil’s plans include the appointment of a Minister for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora to “protect and promote the rights of the Diaspora”.
Such a minister would be responsible for assisting Britain’s ‘forgotten Irish’ who are described in the proposals as a group who “moved to Britain in the latter half of the twentieth century to find work and send remittances home to their families”.
“There are an estimated 100,000 ‘forgotten Irish’ living in Britain today with varying levels of need, ranging from homelessness and deprivation to social exclusion, or simply crippling loneliness,” Senator Daly added.
The proposals come in the week that representatives of the Irish in Britain met with Tom Arnold, chairman of the Constitutional Convention. The 100-member body, established by the Irish Government last year, will discuss whether the Diaspora should be given voting rights.
Speaking to The Irish Post after the meetings, Mr Arnold said the majority of those he met favoured the extending voting rights to the Irish abroad.
However he stressed the verdict he will take back to the Convention was not “unanimous”, especially on the issue of Dáil representation.
Fianna Fáil’s new policy document goes on suggests new ways for Ireland to connect with the “six million people in Britain who claim Irish ancestry”.
The first would eliminate the requirement for children to have a parent with Irish citizenship before claiming an Irish passport if they have Irish grandparents.
They also suggest creating an “Irish card” for people of Irish heritage who are ineligible for an Irish passport, with perks including separate immigration counters at Irish airports and discounts for airfare, hotels and car rentals.
“We believe all parties should commit to appointing a minister for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora at the next general election,” Senator Daly said.
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