Aideen Roche, of Doras Luimní, encourages all new citizens to use their vote on Friday
DORAS Luimní has been working with new Irish citizens in Limerick ahead of Friday’s election, reminding them that for those who are registered “there is power in their vote”.
More than 300 new citizens in Limerick have registered to vote over the past few months.
Spokesperson for the city centre organisation, Aideen Roche said that new citizens in Limerick make up a “considerable proportion of the electorate”.
However, she added that despite the size of the population, political parties “continue to disregard immigration and migrant-related issues in their manifestos.
“There has been a significant increase in awareness of refugee protection concerns and the scandal of Direct Provision among the general public too, and we hope that the next Government will take swift and effective action on these areas as a matter of priority.”
According to Ms Roche, Doras Luimní, which is located on O’Connell Street, has been implementing a project that aims to increase voter registration and participation, through voting information sessions.
She said that for people with “limited social networks” and who are non-native English speakers, registration and the election system can be a challenging task.
“While many new citizens living in Limerick are well aware of the process, there are a growing number of new eligible electors that benefit from tailored information and assistance.
“Ireland has a complicated and unique election process, not helped by the usage of Irish language terminology in politics.
“Very few have been approached by canvassers or candidates and there seems to be a misconception that people who look or sound different could not be eligible to vote. Ireland has changed and we now live in a diverse country comprised of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. We hope to see that diversity represented in politics in the very near future.”
She said that the first-time voters are showing “excitement” ahead of Friday’s election.
“We have been helping people to navigate the system, and there has been a real sense of empowerment, throughout that work, and people are now starting to realise that they do have a voice,” she enthused.
On February 7, Doras Luimní held a voter registration day for new citizens, who received assistance with forms, while a local Garda was present to sign and stamp the forms. During the information day, University of Limerick lecturer Dr Maura Adshead and the politics department facilitated a workshop to explain the election process.
Dr Adshead said: “Using a ‘mock-election’ we demonstrate in an informal and friendly way, how the Irish electoral system works and how voters can make their vote work for them.
“Our aim is to encourage participants to consider each candidate’s positions on topical issues and, ultimately, to take those positions into consideration when making their final decisions on who they will vote for in the upcoming election.”
Ms Roche said that the issues of concern to new citizens are “very much the same as the rest of us.
“There is a priority on economy, jobs, but there are other issues that obviously would be of particular concern to new citizens, such as anti-racism, focus on integration supports and the development of an integration strategy, and issues relating to Direct Provision, and the immigration system more broadly would also be of concern.”
She added that there has been “nothing” done on Direct Provision by the Government over the past few years.
According to Doras Luimní, since 2011, nearly 100,000 new Irish citizens will be voting for the first time, across the country.
Doras Luimní is a non-profit organisation based which promotes the human rights of migrants through campaigns.