A LONDON Irishman who is running for the Seanad has today launched his campaign to get votes extended to the Irish abroad – and is encouraging members of the diaspora to take a “voiceless selfie”.
The aim of the campaign is to highlight the lack of voting rights for the Irish abroad ahead of the general election in Ireland.
London-based Barry Johnston will run for the Seanad elections as a National University of Ireland candidate.
With the support of Ed Davitt, who lives in Brussels and is running as a Trinity College Dublin candidate, Mr Johnston is ramping up his campaign to have votes for the Irish abroad high on the agenda ahead of the election on February 26.
The ‘Emigrant Manifesto’ research, carried out by Mr Johnston, highlights some alarming statistics.
His research found that 45 per cent of Irish emigrants plan on returning to Ireland in the near future – while the same number keep up to date with current affairs at home.
“All parties should recognise that denying the vote to Irish citizens abroad is undemocratic, out of step with other European countries, and sends a message that the Irish abroad are barred from any role in shaping the future of the country regardless of their intention to return,” said Mr Johnston.
In total, one in six Irish-born people live abroad now.
Under current laws, they are not permitted to vote in elections or referendums in Ireland.
An emigrant is kept on the voting register for 18 months after leaving Ireland – and this loophole has been taken advantage of, with thousands of Irish worldwide going home to vote in last year’s same-sex marriage referendum.
Worldwide, 120 countries have a voting system in place for their citizens living overseas.
Mr Johnston and Mr Davitt have teamed up in an effort to encourage the diaspora to highlight their lack of a voice in Irish politics with a “voiceless selfie”.
They are asking Irish emigrants around the world to take a picture of themselves at a famous landmark in their country of residence with their mouths covered to symbolise the lack of voting rights for the Irish abroad.
Rose of Tralee 2010 winner, London Rose Dr Clare Kambamettu, is supporting the campaign.
“Living in London in 2007 I remember how we avidly followed news stories from home yet how dis-empowered and detached we felt,” she said.
“Throughout my international travels as Rose of Tralee, I met so many others just like us.
“They too had left and felt their separation from home deeply. This voice of Ireland abroad is a powerful one and positive one that needs to be heard at home.”
The election, announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on February 3, is the shortest election campaign in Ireland’s history, at just over three weeks.
Mr Johnston’s hope is to highlight the issue of overseas voting ahead of Ireland going to the polls.
You can share your voiceless selfie on Twitter by uploading your picture with the link to the Emigrant Manifesto.