Ireland Takes the Lead with EU Voters
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th April, 2008
The Republic of Ireland looks set to become the first EU member state to give a vote in its general elections to all legally resident EU citizens (with the proviso that they can speak English). This would be a milestone in the development of European citizenship, as well as a major advance for Eire, which currently doesn’t even allow EU citizens to vote in local elections (as they can in the UK and many other EU member states). Conor Lenihan, Ireland’s Minister for Integration, commented, ‘There can be nothing more powerful in integrating people than allowing them to make a political decision by using a vote to shape the state [they] are in.’ He might also have pointed out, on the old principle of No Taxation without Representation, that EU citizens who are taxpayers in Ireland deserve to have a say in how their money is spent as well.
I hope Britain will follow suit. The UK is already the most generous country in the EU to non-nationals, in the sense that it gives votes in general elections not only to Irish citizens (a historical quirk), but also to all resident Commonwealth citizens as well. It is logical that legally resident EU citizens — such as the French and Germans who are working hard in the City, or Polish builders who have settled in the UK — should be given the right as well. As Mr Lenihan implies, this would make them feel a greater sense of belonging to the society in which they are living and to which they are after all contributing. And it could give a beneficial impetus to our national politics as well.