We remember the long lines at ports and airports when Irish emigrants, at great personal cost, came home to vote in the marriage equality referendum, in May 2015. The sense was of a lost tribe returning to its roots and having a say in a critical decision for the Irish people. The Irish government did not make it easy. Polling stations could have been set up in embassies and consulates, a form of postal voting could have been introduced. Instead, many trekked thousands of miles, from as far away as Australia and California, to make their vote count. Yet, as Washington expert Kevin Sullivan wrote, only about 66,000 of the 280,000 who left after the Celtic Tiger collapsed were eligible to vote leaving the emigrant Irish with a much diminished voice when it came to the battle over human rights for all.
About 125 countries around the world allow their citizens to vote in elections. Some countries, such as France, have seats set aside for the emigrants or emigres. Unless your voting card is up to date, which usually means you have left in the last 18 months, it is impossible to vote. But just to complicate matters college graduates can vote in the Seanad (or upper house) elections where their college sends members to the senate.
There is clear discrimination there which could surely form the basis of a major lawsuit about equality if a non-college emigrant voter sought his or her equal rights. The Irish government appointed a Diaspora Minister, a great move and long overdue, but imbued him with little power when it came to the voting rights issue.