In a radical move set to change the nation’s political landscape, Ireland is to allow Poles, along with Czechs, Slovakians and tens of thousands of other EU migrant workers to vote in national elections.
Conor Lenihan, Ireland?s Minister for Integration, sees the proposal as crucial to assimilating the country?s immigrants, which currently make up 12.5% of the nation’s 4.5 population. Speaking to the Guardian he said: “There can be nothing more powerful in integrating people than allowing them to make a political decision by using a vote to shape the state they are in. By not letting them vote you are postponing their decision to integrate and become full Irish citizens.?
As part of the proposals being drawn up, Lenihan plans to increase the number of “citizenship ceremonies”, which involve foreign nationals being obliged to swear an oath of allegiance to the Irish constitution. All immigrants applying for permanent residence, and therefore the right to vote, would also have to pass a proficiency test in the English language.
The Minister, who worked for the Inner London Education Authority in 1980s and witnessed the UK?s policies on immigration, is keen to learn from the mistakes which have led to many ethnic groups in Britain segregating themselves from the rest of society. “Ireland will operate on a happy medium, between the worst mistakes of multiculturalism and extreme assimilation. There won’t be an American style insistence on holding your hand on your heart and saluting the flag each day – that is not the Irish way. But nor will we be encouraging the creation of separate racial or ethnic areas.”