Tuesday, 15 September 2020
Department of An Taoiseach
19. To ask the Taoiseach if presidential voting rights will be included within the shared island unit of his Department; the timeframe for establishment of the unit; and the status of the process to date. [22374/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 20 together.
The Programme for Government sets out the Government’s commitment to working with all communities and traditions on the island to build consensus around a shared future.
This work will be underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement and by the absolute respect for the principle of consent.
I want to see a renewed push to use the potential of the Good Friday Agreement to deliver sustained progress for all communities on the island.
The Government committed to establishing a Shared Island unit in the Department of the Taoiseach, to work towards a consensus on a shared island. This unit has now been established.
As set out in the Programme for Government, the unit will examine the political, social, economic and cultural considerations underpinning a future in which all traditions are mutually respected.
Strengthening social, economic and political links on the island and the promotion of all-island approaches to the strategic challenges facing Ireland, North and South will be key objectives for the unit.
The unit is led by an Assistant Secretary, with two staff appointed and further assignments in train. The work programme for the unit is currently being further developed.
The unit will work collaboratively across Government and with research, civil society, sectoral, business and community organisations on the island, and seek broad-based engagement with political and civil society representatives.
Finally, in relation to Presidential voting rights, as set out in the Programme for Government, we are committed to holding a referendum on extending the franchise at presidential elections to Irish citizens living outside the State, including in Northern Ireland. This is being progressed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage.