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Inside File The ‘right’ to vote

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Jude McGovern will be voting on Nov. 7, just like millions of other Americans. But Jude will cover a little more than the mile or two to the polling center that most Americans will be facing as they chose the man to fill the Oval Office and a host of other political posts.

McGovern lives in Swanlinbar, Co. Cavan. He’s a dual Irish and U.S. citizen who takes the right to vote seriously. McGovern served in the U.S. Army and worked for the NYPD and the New York State Department of Corrections. Back in the 1980s, he did volunteer work for the Irish Immigration Reform Movement. He still has a place in Woodside, the Irish heart of Queens.

McGovern comes back to the U.S. a couple of times a year to sort out his taxes and, even more important, to vote.

"I have a passion about voting," McGovern told "IF." Too many people died for the right to vote."

McGovern voted for Bill Clinton in ’96 because of what the president was trying to do for the counties just a few miles north of Swanlinbar and he is leaning toward Hillary Clinton in the New York Senate race. McGovern, as it turns out, doesn’t always have to fly the Atlantic to vote in New York. He has voted by mail in a New York mayoral election. That’s his privilege as a U.S. citizen.

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He would not be allowed do the same in any Irish election if he was in Woodside. It wouldn’t matter if he owned every inch of Swanlinbar. Once out of Ireland, you leave your voting rights behind, the same voting rights that all those people died for. Ireland is the only country in the EU that does not allow even limited voting rights for its citizens living overseas. The vote has been promised to emigrants by the present Irish government, but. . . .

A potential model for an Irish emigrant vote, meanwhile, has been offered up by the Italians, Ireland’s main rival in the recent United Nations Security Council election. As a result of a constitutional amendment, Italians living abroad will now be allowed to elect their own legislators for both their lower house of parliament and senate from a pool of candidates based in Italy and overseas. They will be allowed do this by absentee ballot.

During the UN election campaign, the Irish pitch to many of the smaller UN member nations was based on the argument that there was a need for those smaller nations to be represented on the Security Council. Ireland, of course, was one of those wee nations. But in terms of the global body politick, how much smaller can you get than the individual voter. What’s good for the goose. . . . Anyway, keep an eye out for McGovern on Nov. 7. His vote might just break the ties in a year of exceptionally tight races.

Rick’s Dems

"IF" is not aware of any prominent Republicans defecting to the Hillary camp as the election looms ever larger, but Rick Lazio has snared a few notable Irish Americans who would normally call themselves Democrats. Not least among these is Bill Flynn, former Mutual of America chief, and Dr. Mark McMahon, the Manhattan-based physician who dared take the first lady on in the Democratic primary a while back.

"It’s been difficult for me to go against my own party, but this is a matter of conscience to me. She’d be ineffective as a fighter in the Senate," McMahon said during a meeting in Albany with Lazio to announce his defection.

Lazio, not surprisingly, welcomed McMahon into his camp. Clinton’s people were, not surprisingly, underwhelmed by McMahon’s move.

"Didn’t want you to miss this important endorsement," was the cheeky comment on a faxed press release from Fort Hillary.

Flynn’s jump is certainly interesting, given that the man’s peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland over the last few years came within the broader context of President Clinton’s Irish policies. Of course, not everyone knew that Flynn was a Democrat in the first place, but now we know he is/was. His vote might just counter Jude McGovern’s in the New York Senate race.

Babies over bullets

Back in the cold days of last winter, Gerry Adams came to New York and all but predicted a united Ireland by 2016. Adams is not a man to mince words or throw them away lightly. Such a view on the future is based on a number of factors, not least birth rate and emigration patterns in the wee Six Counties.

A few days ago, the Belfast-published Irish News ran a story with a headline predicting that nationalists would become a majority in the North. The report was based on results of a 1998 population study by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The study was attempting to project population patterns up until 2013. According to the study, the patterns between 1998 and 2013 would continue to represent population growth in nationalist Northern Ireland, ie. the part of it west of the River Bann, and continued population decline, both in relative and absolute terms, in districts dotting the unionist heartland east of the river. A full census takes place in the North next year. The results are certain to contain much food for thought.

Rule Hibernia

The British have never quite forgiven the aforementioned Italians for jumping into World War II back in 1940 when Britannia appeared to be going under the waves rather than ruling them. So it’s no great surprise that the word is about that her majesty’s diplomats at the United Nations threw their support behind the ultimately successful Irish bid for a rotating Security Council seat in the recent secret ballot by the East River. It has also been suggested that the U.S. backed the Irish bid as well.

Of course, every one of the 183 members states eligible to take part in the election had two votes, so the Brits and Yanks could have also backed the Italians. In the case of the British, however, "IF" would lay a few shillings on their other vote having gone to Norway, the other successful contender for a two-year rotating seat. All chums in New York then. But "IF" has no doubt that payback will be required. Nothing has ever been entirely free in the thorny history of Anglo-Irish relations.

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