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Voting rights in British and Irish general elections

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1023943.  Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:05 pm Reply with quote

Hello all.

Never lurked, never posted, so I don't know the procedure or etiquette for pointing out an error on the programme.

However, the most recent episode contained a clanger. Contrary to what the inestimable Mr Fry claimed, British subjects resident in Ireland are entitled to vote in Irish general elections (just as Irish citizens resident in the UK are entitled to vote in British general elections). This has always been the case (where by 'always' I mean since independence in 1922).

However, the rights are not entirely reciprocal. British people in Ireland may vote in general elections (that is, elections to the Dáil), but cannot vote in referendums to amend the constitution, or in presidential elections. The ostensible justification for this is that no such equivalents exist in the UK. This is obvious in the case of presidential elections, but rather less so—but no less true—in the case of referendums. Referendums in Ireland are doubly obligatory: when they are held, they are held because they must be held, and the result must be followed (barring an exercise in Mrs Doyle-democracy, such as the second votes on the Nice and Lisbon Treaties). Referendums in the UK are doubly optional: they are held when it is politically expedient to do so, not because they must be held, and the result does not (legally) need to be followed.

The one area where these mutual electoral rights are definitely not reciprocal is in eligibility for election to parliament. Irish people in the UK are entitled to stand for, be elected to, and sit in Parliament (provided they swear the oath, which many a better Irishman than me has sworn—O'Connell, Parnell and Hume included). In Ireland, election to the Dáil is open only to Irish citizens.

Source: Electoral Act 1992, section 8 (2) (a) (ii) (I), available at

Toodle pip.

1024134.  Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:57 am Reply with quote

Welcome Smaug :-)

This is as good a place as any, and we always welcome quibbles. Normally we put things like this in the Green Room forum, but I'm sure anybody who wants to re-quibble it will notice it here.

1024190.  Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:14 pm Reply with quote

I noticed that several notable members were from the Erskine family. Handy having several members with names not too dissimilar to Merkin...


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