Queen's Policy Engagement

Referendum in Ireland to Extend Voting Rights

In light of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's recent announcement to hold a referendum to allow Irish citizens resident outside the state the right to vote in Irish presidential elections, Professors John Garry and Colin Harvey look back at their input into the 2013 Constitutional Convention that made the recommendation for this right to be extended.

Referendum in Ireland to Extend Voting Rights

The Irish government has decided to hold a referendum on granting the right to vote in Irish presidential elections to Irish citizens living outside the state, including Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland. The referendum is likely to be held next year and, if passed, the new rules would come into force for the 2025 presidential election.

This decision to hold a referendum is the result of a recommendation made by Irish citizens at the Constitutional Convention in 2013. The Convention was an example of deliberative democracy in action: a random selection of Irish citizens – broadly representative of Irish citizens as a whole in terms of age, gender, social class and other characteristics – was selected to discuss (alongside a sample of elected politicians) a range of constitutional themes, and to make recommendations.

On this particular issue, the citizens met over a weekend and reflected on evidence presented by a range of experts, including two QUB academics. Professor Colin Harvey presented to the citizens an analysis of the legal and constitutional aspects of extending the right to vote to Irish citizens resident outside the state.



Professor John Garry presented his analysis of the voting implications of such an extension of the electorate, specifically asking: “If people living in Northern Ireland were allowed to vote in an Irish Presidential election, what impact would this have on the outcome of the election?”



The full report of the Constitutional Convention can be accessed here.

Further reading on Citizenship and Political Rights in Ireland by Professor Colin Harvey can be found here.


The featured image of Áras an Uachtaráin has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons licence.


Professor John Garry
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John Garry is Professor of Political Behaviour in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast.

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