A referendum to extend voting rights in presidential elections to Irish citizens living outside the State will take place in the autumn. It was initially thought the referendum would take place in May but it will now take place on either October 25th or November 1st. A Government source said of the decision not to hold the referendum earlier: “We want to win this referendum but Brexit means our system is very focused on everything that a “no deal” or extension of article 50 could throw up. This referendum is going have high profile debate and will need a strong campaign so the decision has been taken for the autumn.” Later in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that Brexit contributed to the decision to delay the referendum. He said the poll would have been held along with the local and European elections.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is facing an internal Fine Gael backlash over plans to extend voting rights in presidential elections to the diaspora. An increasing number of Fine Gael Cabinet ministers are understood to be opposed to extending voting rights to all Irish citizens over concerns about the impact it would have on elections. Agriculture Minister Michael Creed raised his objection to the referendum directly with the Taoiseach at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. Other ministers who did not want to be named said they privately agreed with Mr Creed but did not speak up at the meeting. “It is a nonsense idea based on something Enda Kenny announced when he was on a visit to America,” a Cabinet minister said.
Ireland: Government fortifying IT systems for ‘fear of Russian interference’ in European elections | The Journal
The Irish government is in the process of upgrading its IT security across various departments ahead of the local and European elections for fear that they could be subject to outside interference. TheJournal.ie understands that sophisticated cyber security features were added to the internal infrastructure of many Government department’s systems in recent weeks. Late last year, the Government issued a report which identified the cyber related risks to the electoral process and made a number of recommendations to mitigate them. While the Government has not explicitly said that the upgrade is to protect elections, there is a serious fear that Russia may attempt to influence European elections, meaning Ireland could be compromised despite the small number of MEPs we have.
Ireland: 50,000 British living here set to lose vote in Euro election, says Mitchell | The Independent
Former MEP Gay Mitchell has warned that more than 50,000 British citizens living in Ireland are set to lose the right to vote in the European elections here following Brexit. Reciprocal voting arrangements for Irish and British citizens allow them to vote in general, local and European elections in each other’s countries. However, the former Fine Gael MEP has warned British citizens living here will lose the right to vote for MEPs after the UK leaves the EU. The next European Parliament election will be in May, less than two months after Brexit is due to happen at the end of March.
An online voter registration system to make voting more user friendly is being proposed by the Government. The new register would be anonymous and people would be identified only by a number in order to protect victims of domestic violence and stalking. “If somebody has a barring order for domestic violence against their husband or wife, we don’t want the electoral register to be accessible when it is a public document, that somebody can go on — or a stalker —and see where their potential victims are living,” said minister of state for local government and electoral reform, John Paul Phelan.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, has received a timely boost after the opposition party that keeps his minority government in power pledged not to force an election because of the turmoil over Brexit. The move by Fianna Fáil will bolster Mr Varadkar in talks over a “backstop” on the Irish border, one of the most contentious elements of the EU withdrawal agreement that UK prime minister Theresa May is fighting to get through the British parliament. It underscores the depth of anxiety in Dublin about the threat of damage to the country’s economy and Northern Ireland’s peace settlement from a disorderly no-deal Brexit. Mrs May was forced to cancel emergency talks with Mr Varadkar planned for Wednesday as she battled a confidence motion from her own Conservative party.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Saturday he has no plans to call an election before Christmas and that uncertainty over Brexit must take precedence over the outcome of talks to extend an expiring government cooperation deal. Varadkar’s Fine Gael party and the main opposition group backing his minority government began talks on whether to renew their “confidence and supply” deal three weeks ago. His deputy leader said on Friday the agreement had a few more weeks to run. Varadkar insists that he wants to extend the pact until mid-2020, rather than capitalize on his Fine Gael party’s increased popularity by calling an immediate snap election.
A referendum on extending voting rights to Irish citizens overseas in Presidential elections is planned for May 24th, 2019, the same day as local and European Parliament elections, Senator Billy Lawless has said. Speaking at a meeting organised by the Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA) campaign in London, Mr Lawless said he had been…
The Irish presidential election is to be held on Friday, 26 October, it has been confirmed. Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed the news this morning on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan. In a statement, Murphy announced that he had made a Presidential Election Order, setting out key dates in the election process. The last date for receipt of a nomination is 26 September while the winner of the 26 October election will be inaugurated two weeks later on 11 November 2018. Murphy has appointed Barry Ryan as the Presidential Returning Officer.
A Presidential election is now a certainty after Sinn Fein this afternoon decided to field a candidate. The decision was made following a meeting of the party’s Ard Comhairle today. A candidate will be selected at a later date. The party has set up a committee, chaired by Waterford TD David Cullinane, to establish a process for selecting a candidate. This process is expected to be outlined in the next 10 days. A candidate will then be nominated in the coming months. Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said there has already been considerable interest from a number of potential candidates.
Ireland: Online voter registration system to deal with dead voters and multiple votes | The Irish Times
Online registration for voters is to be introduced, the Department of Local Government has said. The online system will use a “single identifier” which is most likely to be an individual’s Personal Public Service (PPS) number. It is expected to take two to three years to implement and will replace 23 different forms with one form for registration. The array of forms currently include change of address, the supplementary registration and various postal voting forms. Minister of State John Paul Phelan said the voter registration problem was the biggest issue that continually arose in elections and referendums; that “people are registered in multiple places because they’ve moved houses and also the continuation of people being on registers years after they’ve passed away”.
Ireland began voting on Friday in an abortion referendum that could be a milestone on a path of change in a country that, only two decades ago, was one of Europe’s most socially conservative. Polls suggest Irish voters are set to overturn one of the world’s strictest bans on terminations. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in favour of change, has called the referendum a “once-in-a-generation” chance. Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation will be asked if they wish to scrap a prohibition that was enshrined in the constitution by referendum 35 year ago, and partly lifted in 2013 only for cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
Anti-abortion campaigners have sidestepped Google’s ban on online adverts relating to the referendum in Ireland on Friday, so as to promote their message on popular websites. This May the tech company banned paid messages relating to the referendum from appearing on its services, which dominates many aspects of online advertising. But campaigners have turned to alternative online ad sales platforms to push adverts to Irish readers of news sites. These sites have included the Atlantic, Washington Post and the Guardian, and ads have also been aimed at readers of women’s lifestyle websites and players of mobile games. Some of these ultimately use elements of Google technology to serve the adverts, despite the company’s commitment to pulling out of the referendum.
Ireland: Online ads restricted ahead of Ireland’s abortion vote amid concerns over social media influence | Associated Press
In homes and pubs, on leaflets and lampposts, debate is raging in Ireland over whether to lift the country’s decades-old ban on abortion. Pro-repeal banners declare: “Her choice: vote yes.” Anti-abortion placards warn against a “license to kill.” Online, the argument is just as charged — and more shadowy, as unregulated ads of uncertain origin battle to sway voters before Friday’s referendum, which could give Irish women the right to end their pregnancies for the first time. The highly charged campaign took a twist this month when Facebook and Google moved to restrict or remove ads relating to the abortion vote. It is the latest response to global concern about social media’s role in influencing political campaigns, from the U.S. presidential race to Brexit.
Ireland: As polls narrow before the abortion vote, is rural Ireland setting up a Brexit moment? | The Guardian
The polls have narrowed so much that a result once nearly taken for granted now hangs in the balance; the media are under fierce attack for bias; and questions are swirling about foreign influence and online ads. As Ireland heads into the last week of campaigning for its historic referendum on abortion, the long shadow of two recent surprise election results – the Brexit referendum across the Irish sea, and Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential poll – is hanging over Irish voters. They will decide on Friday whether to repeal an amendment dating back to the 1980s that enshrined in the constitution a near-total ban on abortion. The controls are the strictest in any western democracy, meaning that the battle has been closely watched by anti-abortion activists across the world.
Google has banned all adverts relating to the Irish abortion referendum from its platform, amid fears of overseas organisations taking advantage of loopholes in campaign funding laws to target voters before polling day. The decision will mean an end to advertisements relating to the referendum appearing alongside Google results and on YouTube during the final fortnight of the campaign. “Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the eighth amendment,” a spokesperson said.
There are far more than three billboards outside Roscommon, and their opposing messages indicate an intensifying battle for undecided voters in the historic referendum on abortion this month. On the roads into this quiet town in the middle of rural Ireland, it is impossible to miss the laminated placards fixed to lamp-posts. Some have one from each camp, vying for the attention of passersby in a polarised campaign in which voters have to make a binary choice between yes and no. A few hoardings have been torn down in the night, in a sign of strongly held beliefs. But mostly, the people of Roscommon are holding their views close, unwilling to discuss with each other – let alone a stranger – where they will place their cross on 25 May.
Tens of thousands of recent Irish emigrants could potentially legally vote during the referendum on the Eighth Amendment on Friday, May 25th. But, in an ironic turn of events, our voting system will only accommodate those with the means to travel. As founders of the We’re Coming Back and Get the Boat to Vote campaigns, we were both involved in organising the #Hometovote movement for the Marriage Equality referendum in 2015. Despite the public outpouring of support, and the welcome back for those who “voted with their feet” as Enda Kenny put it, absolutely nothing has been done since to facilitate an emigrant vote. Why? Under our electoral laws, Irish emigrants may fully retain their voting rights at home for a period of 18 months after leaving. Although the vast majority of citizens overseas have been out of the country for longer than a year and a half, those who have recently left – most of them too young to have voted in the 1983 referendum that brought in the Eighth Amendment, or even been alive to see it enacted – may yet have their say on May 25th.
A Canadian organisation is seeking to fundraise 7,000 Canadian dollars (€4,500) to send up to 24 independent electoral observers to Ireland for the referendum campaign to assess whether both sides “play fair” in the process. Non-governmental organisation SDAI-ADID says it is interested in “supporting and strengthening democracy through election observation” and that it wants to observe whether the electoral process adheres to “international standards of free, fair and transparent elections”.
Ireland will become the second country to trial a new tool that Facebook hopes will ensure greater transparency in political advertising, when it holds a referendum on abortion next month, the company’s vice president for global policy said on Tuesday. Facebook introduced the tool this month as part of steps to deter the kind of election meddling and online information warfare that U.S. authorities have accused Russia of pursuing, although Moscow has denied the allegations. The ‘view ads’ tool, which allows users to view all the ads a particular advertiser is running in that jurisdiction, has been successfully tested in Canada, Joel Kaplan said.
The result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment could be undermined if a legal challenge about voting rights for Irish citizens in Northern Ireland is not decided beforehand, the High Court has heard. Lawyers for a Belfast student who wants to bring a legal challenge to the exclusion of people in Northern Ireland from voting in the May referendum say the case must be heard beforehand or risk invalidating the result. Roisin Morelli is seeking permission from the High Court to bring the challenge. She says citizens of Northern Ireland have a constitutional right to vote in such referendums.
A bill will go before the Seanad today which could see the voting age in Ireland be reduced to 16-years-old. If the bill is passed, over 126,000 16 and 17-year-olds would be eligible to vote in the next local elections in 2019. Furthermore, no referendum would be required to reduce the age unless it was Dail or Presidential elections. The bill has been proposed and sponsored by Senators Fintan Warfield and Lynn Ruane.
People who are blind or visually impaired will be able to vote in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment without assistance for the first time. The use of new tactile ballot templates at polling stations means thousands of people with limited or no sight will be able to cast their votes in secret in the May referendum. The introduction of these new ballot papers follows the High Court case of Robbie Sinnott who initiated proceedings in 2016 against the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the State.
The Irish government has agreed the wording of a national referendum on abortion to be held by the end of May which could radically transform the lives of thousands of women and signal a further loosening of the grip of the Catholic church. The cabinet, meeting on International Women’s Day, approved a bill on Thursday allowing the long-anticipated referendum to go ahead. Voters will be asked if they want to repeal article 40.3.3 – known as the eighth amendment – which since 1983 has given unborn foetuses and pregnant women an equal right to life, effectively enshrining a ban on abortion in the country’s constitution. If Ireland votes in favour of repeal, the government has said it will introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
In 1983, Ailbhe Smyth was spat at and denounced as a “baby murderer” in the street as she campaigned for Irish women to have the right to abortion. Thirty-five years later, the activist is still at the heart of Ireland’s abortion battle, fighting for her daughter, granddaughter and other women to get control over their bodies. This time, she is hopeful that the country’s prohibition of abortion, even in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormality, which is enshrined in the constitution, may be overturned in a referendum expected to be held on 25 May.
The eighth amendment of the Irish constitution makes Ireland, depending on your point of view, either a unique beacon of humanity in a godless world or a superstitious hamlet determined not to enter into the 21st century. The amendment was signed into law in October 1983 after two-thirds of the electorate voted in a referendum to accord equal status to the life of a child growing in the womb with that of its mother. As a result, only in extreme circumstances can an abortion take place. Pointing out that no one under the age of 52 had ever voted on the issue, the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, last week announced that a referendum would take place by the end of May to repeal the amendment.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland has narrowly averted the collapse of his government, but he emerged from a political crisis badly weakened on Tuesday, just weeks before a crucial European Union meeting about Brexit and the country’s border with Britain. Mr. Varadkar’s deputy prime minister, Frances Fitzgerald, resigned on Tuesday over her role in a policing scandal. Her resignation was announced hours before a no-confidence vote was due in Parliament, averting a snap election. “I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilizing general election at this historically critical time,” Ms. Fitzgerald said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Ireland was on the verge of a snap election on Monday after the opposition party propping up the minority government said the deputy prime minister’s refusal to quit would force the country to the polls next month. The political crisis that deepened dramatically late on Monday has left the country’s two main parties with less than 24 hours to head off a general election in a dispute that cast a shadow over a key Brexit summit next month. Ireland will play a major role at the meeting, telling EU leaders whether it believes sufficient progress has been made on the future of the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland. The pressure on Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald of Varadkar’s Fine Gael party mounted on Monday following the release of fresh documents about her disputed handling of a police whistleblower who alleged corruption in the force.
Ireland will hold a referendum next year on whether to repeal its ban on abortion in almost all circumstances, a few weeks before Pope Francis is expected to visit. Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, told the Irish parliament on Tuesday that a national vote on whether to abolish the eighth amendment to the constitution, which gives a foetus the status of a citizen even in early pregnancy, would take place in summer 2018. Under current law, a woman convicted of having an illegal termination in Ireland can face up to 14 years in prison. However, women are free to travel abroad for abortions, and thousands each year do so, mainly to England. Last year the UN human rights committee found that Ireland’s abortion laws were “cruel, inhuman and degrading”. It repeated this criticism in June.
Last week at the Def Con Hacking Conference in Las Vegas chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov discussed artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, electronic voting machines were hacked into, and the US army taught hacking skills to children. Plus a group called the Online Privacy Foundation unveiled research on whether ‘dark ads’ on social media can sway political opinion. Targeting voters through social media, and customising the messaging based on publicly available data is a recipe for underhand political advertising. It allows for messaging that’s not fit for a party political broadcast to be targeted to an audience in swing areas. For example, in the recent UK election, Conservative attack ads warning voters against ‘Corbyn’s death tax’ were served to voters in the marginal constituency of Delyn in Wales.