Credit: CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 Source: EP

BEN SCALLAN: YFG calls for referendum to let EU citizens vote in Irish elections

Fine Gael’s youth wing has passed a motion calling for EU citizens to be able to vote in Irish elections once they’ve lived in Ireland for 5 or more years – a majorly bad idea any way you slice it.

“Young Fine Gael calls on the government to hold a referendum allowing for EU citizens resident and working in Ireland for at least five years the right to vote in national elections,” the group said in a tweet.

“The people who decide who sets our taxes and our laws should be those bound to them,” said incoming YFG president, Art O’Mahony.

“I don’t mind if a proud Estonian raising their family here wants to retain their heritage while having a say in how our country is run.”

In addition to this, it may actually come as a surprise to some to know that under Irish law right now, EU citizens are already entitled to vote in European and local elections.

Now let me say right out of the gate: all of this is an atrocious idea for many, many reasons. But it might not necessarily seem that way at first. After all, if someone lives and works in our country, why shouldn’t they have the right to decide how it operates? It’s only fair, right? “No taxation without representation” and all that.

Well, to put it in very simple terms, this shouldn’t be allowed probably for the same reason a lodger staying in your family home shouldn’t be able to start rearranging the furniture and changing your living room décor at will. Sure, they might live in your guest room. Sure, they are welcome in the household. They may even contribute to the house financially – terrific. But fundamentally, the house is not theirs – they have no ownership over it and have no authority to set house rules.

At the micro-scale, with individuals in a house, this is easy to understand, because it applies to our own lives. A house guest is just that – a guest. But for some reason, when we zoom out to the national and societal level, and we talk about immigration, this easy-to-understand common sense reality suddenly flies out the window.

Think of it this way; if EU citizens were ever allowed to vote in Irish elections, what would even be the purpose in having Irish citizenship at all?

After all, because of EU membership, Ireland essentially has no border to the rest of Europe. Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Swedes and Austrians can come and go through Dublin airport as and when they see fit. They can buy homes in Ireland at will, they can work in Ireland at will, and, if Young Fine Gael had their way, they would be able to vote for Dáil candidates as well (and presumably referenda).

At that point it has to be asked then: what exactly would be the purpose of citizenship if this was the case? What legally would distinguish an Irish citizen from someone from Hungary or Spain who just happens to live here? If any EU citizen can do what an Irish citizen can do, why not scrap Irish citizenship altogether? This plan would devalue the concept of what it means to be an “Irish citizen” entirely. Saying “I’m an Irish citizen” would have no more weight in terms of your rights in this country than being French or Belgian. It would effectively reduce Ireland to the status of a commune or economic hostel.

To add to the absurdity of this idea, according to the CSO, in a normal year, Ireland has a net immigration rate of around 35,000 people a year – mostly from EU countries. That’s around 105,000 new arrivals every 3 years.

What this effectively means is that on a constant basis we would have an influx of tens of thousands of new voters from abroad, many of whom would inevitably hold different values, different priorities, different life goals, and all casting ballots and changing the course of our nation forever. Are you starting to see the problem here?

What cold, calculating materialist parties like Fine Gael fundamentally fail to understand is that there is far more to citizenship than just being an economic unit and residing on a particular landmass for an arbitrary number of years. They fail to realise that Ireland is not merely a job market – she is a nation, with a unique identity, culture and history. Human beings are not chess pieces that can be moved around arbitrarily on a map. Our historic nation cannot be summed up in economic projections and employment graphs.

The people of Ireland have a unique relationship with this island stretching back millenia, and you will never convince me that a Portuguese citizen – lovely and welcome in our country though they may be – has the same right to decide this country’s future as an Irish citizen. Only an internationalist party that had rejected the very concept of nationhood itself could believe such a thing.

In a sane world, it should not be remotely controversial to say that the nation of Ireland is owned by Irish citizens, and that it is adult citizens alone who should decide who runs the government, what amendments go in or out of our constitution, and what the national agenda will be. Ireland is not, never has been, and never will be the European Union. Ireland is Ireland, and it belongs to the citizens of Ireland alone.

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