Perhaps the Minister would spell out the exact implications of the section in the context of the Schedule, Part II —"such other persons in the State as may be determined by law"? What are the legal implications of that wording? As has been asked here during the course of the discussion, why was it decided not to write in there "such other persons ordinarily resident in the State"?
An Bille um an Naoú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1984: Céim an Coiste agus na Céimeanna Deiridh. Ninth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1984: Committee and Final Stages.
When we say "in the State" we mean that a person who will have conferred on him by way of this legislation the right to vote in Dáil elections must have a connection with this State. In other words, he must be resident in the State. No other non-citizen will be eligible to vote in Dáil elections. The connection with the State can be spelled out further in subsequent legislation to mean people who are ordinarily resident in the State.
The legislation is to include a provision confining the extension of the vote to those who have qualified under some residence clause?
Can the Minister indicate the number of non-citizens who are resident here and who would be likely to qualify in the event of legislation being introduced to extend the voting rights to them in Dáil elections? I take it that these are recorded as local authority electors only in the registers compiled in the various constituencies so I assume the Department would have statistics on the number of people we are dealing with. It would be helpful if we could have this kind of information on the record of the House.
Basically, the Deputy is correct in saying that the up-to-date information is not available to us as to the numbers involved. In regard to the 1981 Census of Population, which provided for the collection of data regarding the country of birth of the population, according to the Central Statistics Office the required information in regard to some of the data we would like to have processed will not be available for some time. However, the total number of persons on the 1983-84 Register of Electors, the latest we have, who are not entitled to vote in Dáil elections but who are entitled to vote in European Parliament elections is 13,691. This total includes all EEC nationals. It is estimated that about 10,000 British citizens are included in that total. The number of persons entitled to vote at local elections only — these are people from outside the EEC — is 6,125 according to that latest count.
Therefore, there are probably 20,000 non-citizens who are entitled to vote in local authority elections?
That is correct.
In the event of legislation being introduced on a global basis extending the right to vote to every non-citizen, we would be talking of approximately 20,000 people?
That is possible in the event of subsequent legislation being extended to every non-citizen.
That is the scale of non-citizens resident in the country.
Should we decide to extend the right to the EEC countries as a first step we would be talking of approximately 14,000 people.
I take this opportunity to contradict the impression given by Deputy Manning in his contribution that there has been some change in the basic position of Fianna Fáil in regard to the extension of the vote to non-citizens — and this includes British citizens — in respect of Dáil elections. If the Deputy had listened carefully to what I was saying he could not possibly have come to the conclusion that there was any change in our position. I said that we were supporting this amendment to the Constitution, that it is merely an enabling provision granting powers to the Oireachtas to extend at a later date the voting right to non-citizens.
I had to put down a marker that we could not possibly commit ourselves in advance to give full support to any legislation which would be brought forward after the passing of a referendum of this kind without having seen that legislation in advance. I fail to understand how Deputy Manning can attribute a sinister meaning to that simple, straight-forward position which is one that any Opposition would adopt. It was disingenuous of him to try to create that impression. We are dealing with legislation before the House, we cannot deal with hypothetical legislation which we have not seen and which obviously has not yet been prepared.
When legislation was introduced here some months ago proposing the extension of the vote in certain circumstances to British citizens we stated clearly that our party supported the extension of the right to vote in Dáil elections to British citizens residing here. We pointed out the valuable contribution which they had made to the development of society in the Twenty-six Counties. We emphasised our appreciation of the fact that Irish citizens residing in Britain have been granted the right to vote in British elections. I went into some detail in putting on record the historical context in which that right continues to be exercised by Irish citizens living in Britain. It had nothing to do with generosity on the part of the British authorities in extending that right to us, it had more to do with their colonial activities in the past. However, that is all on the record and we are supporting the proposal before us. We wish to make it quite clear that we will examine any legislation brought forward by the Government subsequent to the passing of this referendum and we will decide what attitude we will take on such legislation, depending on the merits of the proposals contained in it.
Obviously the last thing I want to do is to misrepresent Deputy Molloy or his party. However, what he has just said is much more straightforward and unambiguous than the terms in which he couched his earlier sentence which was not very clear. I am very happy to hear the assurances he has given now. I should like to ask the Minister if any thought has been given to the fact that French people living here have the right to vote in their own national elections? Is it possible that there might be double voting and that foreigners may be entitled legally to vote in two sets of national elections?
That question will refer to subsequent legislation when we will be discussing the categories of people who will have the right to vote conferred on them. The Deputy's point will be taken into consideration at that stage but it does not apply immediately.
Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.