Thursday, 11 July 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I express my sympathies to the families of Noel Whelan and Brendan Grace. I did not know Noel Whelan but I was a huge admirer of his. He was a fantastic commentator and he will be a huge loss to Ireland. He was too young. I knew Brendan Grace well and travelled on tour with him many years ago in Australia. He was a pure gentleman and will also be a huge loss to Ireland.
The briefing held by Senator Lawless and Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad, VICA, yesterday was fantastic and I was very heartened to see such a packed room, with representatives in the audience from every political party. It is to be hoped the referendum will take place in November and it is a very important step to take for the Presidency. It is important that we all work together in this House on a cross-party basis to get it passed. I will be campaigning strongly for a yes vote in November. The campaign also had a public launch last night at the Irish Emigration Museum, which was a very fitting venue. Citizens and residents from inside and outside the State spoke passionately about how important this change is. It would mean a huge amount to Irish citizens in the North and those living abroad. I have two brothers who live in the US and they will be delighted. Their citizenship is as important as anybody else's and they would value the chance to elect our President. The Presidency is an important symbolic role, a head of State who speaks on behalf of Irish people everywhere, and we have a fantastic President at the moment. It would be an inclusive and positive step to recognise that the President represents all Irish people so I urge anyone with an interest in the issue to reach out to VICA and the other groups for more information. We are an outlier on this issue because we are one of only four EU member states to disenfranchise its citizens abroad. We have an opportunity to rectify that in November and I call on all parties to work together for a yes vote.