Time running out for reform of Irish Presidential elections

I am not sure it is my place to suggest why the Nationalist vote has now fallen from 41-42% to 36-38% for an entire electoral cycle now, so I am wary of committing an entire blog to the subject. The total of 36.5% of first preference votes and just 40 seats was by far the lowest post-Agreement Nationalist total, despite apparently favourable demographics.

One suggestion I would make is that Nationalist politicians simply are not very good at delivery. An obvious example of this is on votes for President of Ireland.

I note with interest a Bill submitted by Sinn Féin to Seanad Éireann on this subject. However, mere “extension of voting rights” will probably not prove a practical solution given the President’s role within the State.

The Irish Presidential Election is in fact now barely two years away. What will happen is predictable – about two months in advance Northern Nationalists will suddenly notice it is nigh and start moping about how ridiculous it is that they can stand for President but not vote. But what practically will they have done about it since the last time? It requires a little imagination.

My own proposal, which I have shared here and directly with Nationalist representatives (including in Sinn Féin), is for an electoral college system to be introduced. For example, an Electoral College of 17 (elected by STV from European parliamentary constituencies across the island of Ireland plus another three for Irish citizens elsewhere) could itself elect the President by STV. Voting outside the Republic itself would be entirely by post, with ballot papers provided upon production of a valid current Irish passport. There would perhaps even be a Vice President, elected solely by the 11 Electoral College members elected from within the Republic, to carry out specific State functions.

This system would allow all Irish citizens to participate in the Presidential Election if they wished (as is normal in other republics); it would allow interested Northerners to participate directly, but would also incur no cost or obligation to disinterested Northerners; and it would ensure that voters within the Republic itself still had the major say (with the potential introduction of a Vice President ensuring no interference  on State functions from citizens not residing within the State). Costs of the election outside the Republic would be met from passport fees. What’s not to like?!

I do not expect anyone to pick up this ball and run with it. One frustrating feature of Northern politicians is they prefer to complain than deliver. However, I do wonder if voters are beginning to tire of this trait…

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6 thoughts on “Time running out for reform of Irish Presidential elections

  1. Edward McCamley says:

    ‘Disinterested’ is not a posh way of saying ‘uninterested’. It means impartial.

  2. observer says:

    Presumably FF and FG don’t want NI folks participating – it would help SF.

    • Actually I think it is for the more genuine reason that the President has certain functions specific to the State, hence only residents of the State should elect him/her.

      This is actually abnormal – most republics give the vote to all citizens. But Ireland is also abnormal in two other ways: 1) most of its citizens live outside the boundaries of the state; and 2) there is another jurisdiction (Northern Ireland) from which its citizenship may automatically be derived.

      My proposal tries to take account of all of that, plus neighbours’ sensitivities!

      • Representation without Taxation is a bigger issue. If the franchise is extended to the diaspora and the Irish in the GB, then the idea that somehow the Presidency represents an Island nation rather than an Island national affiliation (even when it can be question that Ireland represents EVERY Ireland) then the sentiments are more measured.

      • That’s basically it, yes.

        Again, my proposal tries to counter than a little by suggesting, for example, that a passport fee would have to have been paid before a ballot paper was issued. A little clumsy, perhaps, but an attempt at least!

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