20 February 2003 Edition

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All Ireland issues need all-party support

Sinn Féin Councillor Davy Hyland has welcomed the response by Bertie Ahern to a question from Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin concerning the rights of people living in the Six Counties to representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

"The Taoiseach stated that many of the recommendations in the seventh progress report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee relating to eligibility for membership of the Dáil and the composition and functions of the Seanad mostly required changes in standing orders and procedures rather than constitutional change," said Hyland.

"However, there are a number of other outstanding issues that need to be addressed immediately by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee if we are to truly implement an all-Ireland agenda. Several weeks ago at a meeting of Newry & Mourne District Council I raised the issue of voting rights in Irish Presidential elections for citizens living in the Six Counties. Unfortunately, we did not receive the support of the SDLP or unionist parties but still managed to have the motion passed by the council. This has now been circulated to every council in Ireland seeking their support. It is disappointing that progress on this issue has not been advanced much further at this stage.

"The Taoiseach's reply is a welcome and positive step in the right direction, but all-Ireland issues can only be resolved if the political will exists amongst all the parties

"The rights of citizens living in the Six Counties to be able to play their full part in the political process throughout the island of Ireland are a crucial factor in the overall peace process. There is now a duty and obligation on all political parties to advance the progress made to date so that the rights of all the people living on the island of Ireland are vindicated."

Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday morning on this issue, Kerry Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris requested the Taoiseach to bring forward legislation to allow people living in the Six Counties the right to vote in Presidential elections.
In reply, Ahern said that the proposal was still under scrutiny.


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