[Sinn Fein]

5th February 2003

Minister's reply to Newry and Mourne Council Motion is offensive

South Armagh MLA Connor Murphy has voiced disappointment and annoyance at the content of Minister Martin Cullen TD's response regarding a motion on Presidential Voting Rights for Irish Citizens living in the 6 Counties passed by Newry and Mourne District Council..

Mr. Murphy said:

``Minister Cullen's response was a misrepresentation of the content of the motion and an obvious attempt to divert attention away from the commitment of the Irish government to address the rights of Irish citizens living in the 6 counties to participate in the political life of the nation.

After the GFA, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern instructed the All Party Committee on the Oireachtas and the Constitution to consider how the people of the Six Counties might play a ``more active part in national political life''.

The Committee recognized in their recommendations a number of areas where Northern Representation could be accommodated.

We are disappointed that Minster Cullen's interpretation of the motion passed by Newry and Mourne bears no resemblance to the actual content of the motion. The Motion made no reference whatsoever to `Emigrant Voting Rights'.

The purpose of the motion was to encourage the Irish Government to expedite the introduction of enabling legislation that would allow Irish Citizens in the North to in the words of An Taoiseach ``play a more active part in national political life''.

The most obvious immediate area that this could be accommodated would be in extending voting rights in Presidential Elections to all Irish Citizens living on the island of Ireland in keeping with the spirit and letter of the GFA as contained in the amended Article 2 of the 1937 Constitution which states:

It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born on the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland.

The issues of Emigrant Voting Rights and voting rights in Presidential Elections for residents of the 6 Counties are two separate issues and must be dealt with as such. Irish citizens living in the 6 Counties will find it extremely offensive that an Irish Minister should refer to them as emigrants in their own country''.

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