Referendum to be held over Irish presidential election

Enda Kenny speaks in the Oval Office March 17, 2015 in Washington Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Kenny - seen here on an earlier visit to Washington - said undocumented Irish immigrants wanted to remain and contribute in the US

The Irish government is to hold a referendum on whether Irish citizens living outside the country, including in Northern Ireland, should be able to vote in Irish presidential elections.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny said it was a "clear recognition of the importance that Ireland attached to her citizens wherever they were".

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting last week, he said on Sunday.

The move was recommended by a Constitutional Convention in 2013.

Last July, the Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh said there was a commitment to hold a referendum.

An options paper will be published later this month outlining arrangements on how to register citizens abroad, and how to facilitate voting outside the Republic of Ireland.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Donald Trump will meet Enda Kenny on Thursday

This will then be discussed during the Global Irish Civic Forum in Dublin in May.

The referendum is unlikely to be held this year, and if it passes, would come into effect for the presidential election after the one set for 2018.

During a visit to Philadelphia at the beginning of the taoiseach's annual St Patrick's Day trip, Mr Kenny told a separate gathering that the "plight" of thousands of illegal Irish immigrants living in the United States was an "absolute priority".

He has vowed to raise the issue with President Donald Trump and said that undocumented Irish immigrants wanted to remain and contribute in the US.

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