Monday, March 20, 2006


Let NI residents vote in Presidential elections - SF

Those from NI should have a vote! I'm pleased to see this issue raised again.

Sinn Féin Ballymena councillor Monica Digney has said NI residents should be given the right to vote in Irish presidential elections.

She made the comments following confirmation that Irish president Mary McAleese is to visit the town later this month, which has - disgracefully - sparked outrage from unionist politicians in the area.

Despite the disgusting comments from DUP councillor Robin Stirling that "the Irish President has little to contribute to our borough", Ms Digney said she believes that permitting citizens from the North to participate in Irish Presidential elections would give them a sense of belonging to the Republic:

"The Good Friday Agreement stated that people in the North have a right to Irish citizenship and voting for the President is one way in which we are entitled to use this citizenship.

"At present, we have a President who was born down the road in Belfast but even the very people who grew up with her cannot vote for her.

"We in Sinn Féin are still lobbying the Dublin Government to grant northern citizens the right to take part in Presidential elections, as it is a key part of our Irish citizenship that was safeguarded under the Agreement."

Ms Digney also urged unionist representatives in the area to refrain from engaging in any negative actions or words towards Mrs McAleese after Mr Stirling refused to rule out the possibility of a protest greeting the Irish President.

He said he expected a decision about a protest would be taken at a higher level within the DUP but claimed that parents of Ballymena Academy, where Mrs McAleese is due to visit on March 28, had contacted him to express their outrage at the proposed visit:

"Her visit to what is viewed as a DUP heartland will undoubtedly be seen by many as being provocative"

However, Ms Digney argued:

"Mary McAleese has been involved in much bridge-building and cross-community work."

Two things need to be addressed here. First of all, in relation to Irish people in the North having the right to vote in Irish presidential elections, of course they should be allowed. Otherwise the granting of Irish citizenship to those in the North is a waste of time.

Second of all, why the hell is Robin Stirling of the DUP so intent on protesting about a visit from Mary McAleese? I'd be interested in hearing a unionist perspective on Mr Stirling's plans. Personally I think the man should be ashamed of himself.

It seems to me that both these issues relate to having a voice. Irish citizens north of the border should be allowed voice their opinions on who should be Irish President and the President herself should be allowed voice her opinions in any part of NI that she wants to.

It's fairly straightforward.


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