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Monday 27 March 2017

Referendum to be held on presidential voting rights for Irish abroad

Taoiseach Enda Kenny announces plans for the referendum
Taoiseach Enda Kenny announces plans for the referendum

The Government has decided to hold a referendum on whether Irish citizens living abroad and in Northern Ireland should be allowed to vote in presidential elections.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny made the announcement yesterday while speaking at the Irish Memorial in Philadelphia.

He said the Government's decision on the referendum, asking if the constitution should be amended, was in keeping with the recommendations made in the Fifth Report of the Convention on the Constitution.

"Today's announcement is a profound recognition of the importance that Ireland attaches to all of our citizens, wherever they may be," Mr Kenny said.

"It is an opportunity for us to make our country stronger by allowing all of our citizens resident outside the State, including our emigrants, to vote in presidential elections.

"I am especially pleased to be making this announcement as we prepare for our worldwide celebration of St Patrick's Day and of all that is Irish."

The Government will publish a detailed Options Paper later this month on the issue, which will also be one of the topics for discussion at the Global Irish Civic Forum which will take place in Dublin in May.

Mr Kenny made his announcement at the start of the Taoiseach's annual St Patrick's trip to the US.

Separately, he has vowed to press US President Donald Trump to help the 50,000 "undocumented" Irish residing in America illegally.

Highlighting their case, Mr Kenny said those "living in the shadows" harboured a strong desire to remain and continue to contribute to society.

The Fine Gael leader said the "plight" of the undocumented would be an "absolute priority" in his planned engagements with the new administration in Washington.

The Taoiseach also expressed hope that Ireland's economic links with the US would be strengthened under Mr Trump.

With such worldwide focus on Mr Trump's controversial immigration policies, Mr Kenny's efforts to lobby the President on behalf of the "undocumented" Irish will draw intense scrutiny in the coming week.

Traditional

This is expected to be Mr Kenny's final trip to the US as Taoiseach - he is tipped to publicly set out his exit plans at the end of this month.

Over the next week, Mr Kenny will visit Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC and New York.

He is expected to present the traditional bowl of Shamrock to President Trump in the White House this Thursday, the same day Mr Trump's latest travel ban comes into effect which targets citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

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