The weather was beautiful this past weekend. On Sunday, I spent the day enjoying some of the sunshine at Cork's Fitzgerald's park with my family. And there I was, sitting on a bench, relaxing and watching my kids play, when a lady approached and handed me a leaflet. The exchange was brief. The lady politely offered me her preference for a 'Yes' vote in the upcoming marriage equality referendum, and on she went.

And then it got me thinking...this will be my first time being eligible to vote on a major issue in over a decade. I have been away from Ireland so long, that I have missed countless referendums, general elections, local elections and more. You see, unlike many countries around the globe, if you are an Irish citizen, living anywhere else in the world other than in Ireland, you are not permitted to vote.

Who is entitled to vote in Ireland?
If you are a citizen of Ireland, then as long as you have registered your name on the Electoral Register, you have the right to vote in all referenda and elections in Ireland, provided you also meet the age restriction. Non-Irish citizens, resident in Ireland, can vote in some elections. This includes EU and non-EU citizens.
To download an application form to register to vote, or to check if your name and details are correctly registered, visit checktheregister.ie.

Voting rights for Irish citizens living abroad
The issue of voting being denied to Irish citizens abroad has been a long and hotly debated issue. For a country with such a strong citizen-base living abroad, it's easy to see how this could become a topic of discussion, and a source of controversy and anguish. I sat firmly in the we-should-have-a-vote camp while I lived abroad. I believed that I would return to Ireland to live one day, and should be entitled to a say on issues here. However, now that I do live in Ireland, my feelings have changed slightly. I am thrilled that I have an opportunity to vote on such an important, and historic, issue, such as marriage equality this coming May 22. However, I'm not so sure anymore that I should have that right if I still lived in the US. As much as I might want a say in the outcome of the referendum, if I'm not affected by it's outcome, then should I really be given that privilege?

I'm open to opinions, comments, discussion on this (voting rights, not the marriage equality topic), but please let's keep it respectful.

more info: a link to a Wikipedia page describing the details of the 2015 Irish constitutional referendum.
photo credit: ballot box

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