Published Friday, 04 October 2013
The Constitution Convention has recommended allowing Irish citizens born outside the Republic of Ireland to vote in the presidential elections, including those in Northern Ireland.
Belfast born Mary McAleese served as a highly popular president for two terms from 1997 to 2011, while deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and singer Dana, both from Derry, are previous candidates.
But currently anyone resident in Northern Ireland cannot have a say in deciding who will take up the position as head of state.
The only all-Ireland vote since partition was for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Extending the voting would be a welcome step for nationalists in the region, according to SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan.
He said: "When it comes to an office like the Presidency because the Presidency is above party politics, the President represents the nation not just here on the island but internationally as well. So it is important for nationalists that we would have that."
Professor Deirdre Heenan is the only Northern Irish resident on the Republic's Council of State, the body which advises the President on constitutional issues.
She sees the extension of voting rights to Northern Ireland as a positive move.
"I think it's interesting in this is being depicted as a constitutional issue, it's not a constitutional issue it falls within the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement," she said.
"I think the issue is around identity, that people in the North or Ireland holding Irish passports want to feel that their voice is being heard. I think it's important to remember that the President is largely a non political figure."
But NI21 Lagan Valley MLA and former UUP member Basil McCrea says unionists will not want to see the proposal go forward.
"The initial reaction is one of I don't think we want that to happen," he said.
"The perception would be from unionists that this is not an advantage, this is some sort of hidden agenda that's going to take you to a place you don't want to go."
For the proposal to be passed it will have to go before the Dáil and also a referendum.
Meanwhile on Friday, Irish voters voted to decide whether to abolish the country's upper house of parliament.
Polls suggest that a majority of votes will be in favour of scrapping the Seanad, as called for by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The historic move would hand power exclusively to the Dáil.
Mr Kenny has claimed getting rid of the senate would create a leaner, more effective and accountable political system but opponents, led by opposition party Fianna Fáil, argue the Seanad is needed to serve as a watchdog for government.
The Irish parliament - the Oireachtas - is made up of the lower house and the Seanad, which has 60 members.
Results of the referendum are expected on Saturday.
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