21/09/2011

Presidential Voting 'Must Be Extended' Say SF

Sinn Fein has urged that all the people of the island of Ireland be allowed to vote in the Irish Presidential elections.

Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff has called for the extension of voting rights. He was joined by an MLA from each other county in Northern Ireland to call for this right.

Mr McElduff said: "The upcoming Irish Presidential election has once again thrust into the spotlight the denial of the right to vote for Irish citizens living in the North of Ireland."

The issue has of course been brought more sharply into focus since the Stormont Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness entered the race.

Mr McGuiness will step down from his duties in Belfast to allow him to run for the election,he will temporarily hand over his position to the party's Education Minister, John O'Dowd.

Both the current President, Mary McAleese and Martin McGuinness have been faced with the situation that they can be nominated and stand for the position of Irish President and indeed, if successful, to represent Ireland on the international stage, yet they cannot vote in the elections - being from Northern Ireland.

"Fine Gael made a manifesto commitment in the last election to allow Irish citizens to vote in Presidential elections in embassies around the world and we want this extended to include the north. I am calling on them now to enact this pledge," said Mr McElduff.

Mr McElduff concluded that: "An amendment to the constitution is all that is required to allow the citizens of Ireland to vote for the President of Ireland.

"It is a right that must be forthcoming if not for this election, due to the tight time frame, but most certainly for the next."

Meanwhile Luke Ming Flanagan has said he would have backed David Norris as a presidential candidate if he could have withdrawn his nomination for Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness.

The Roscommon-South Leitrim Independent TD said he believes Senator Norris, who has now received at least 12 signatures, should be on the ballot paper.

He is calling on all Oireachtas members who have not given their support to a candidate to help facilitate Mr Norris' entry into the race.

Deputy Flanagan, who had originally backed the Senator, said he held talks with him yesterday but it was too late to transfer his nomination.

Separately the debate on Mr McGuinness's controversial past with the IRA is ongoing.

Fintan O'Toole of the Irish Times has said Mr McGuinness should not be President because he could be arrested for war crimes and former Justice Minister Michael McDowell has condemned Mr McGuinness for his connections with the IRA.

Broadcaster and journalist Eamon Dunphy has however hit out at critics of the Presidential candidate. Mr Dunphy has said he will be voting in favour of the Sinn Fein candidate.

(LB/BMcC)

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