Irish immigrants living abroad begin the journey home to cast their vote in the May 25 referendum on making Ireland’s abortion laws more liberal.
Boarding planes, boats, trains and buses, Ireland’s immigrants are returning home to cast their vote in the May 25 referendum on the repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution. Ireland’s voting system offers no options for postal votes overseas or the option to vote in an embassy while abroad, while those who leave the country also become disenfranchised after just 18 months.
As a result, both the Yes and No campaign have appealed to Irish immigrants who have not yet lost their vote to return #HomeToVote in this heated referendum.
“Our campaign is about mobilizing citizens who are eligible to vote to go home and exercise their right to vote. This is mainly important because no one under the age of 52 has been able to vote on this topic. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Sarah Murphy of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign told the University Times.
We’re coming home, Ireland. Three years ago, Irish people travelled from all over the planet to make Ireland a more equal place. We need you again! We're calling on vote-eligible Irish abroad to make the journey #HomeToVote on May 25th to remove the eighth amendment. Take one trip home to vote so that the 10 women every day who travel from the Republic of Ireland for an abortion, will no longer have to make that journey.Posted by London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign on Dé Luain, 23 Aibreán 2018
“It’s also more and more clear that the different trends of emigration patterns in Ireland mean people are more likely to go abroad for a couple of years and return home than to emigrate for life. So this is becoming more a topic that is likely to impact people’s lives, even if they’re living on the other side of the world.”
“I feel like it’s almost obligatory to go home,” said Emma Beuster who is traveling home from New York to vote, while Ciaran Gaffney is traveling back from Argentina to make his voice heard. “The original flight I was going to get was from Buenos Aires to Uruguay. Uruguay to Madrid. Madrid to Dublin. Then down to Limerick to vote. Which would have been crazy,” he said.
Boarding a 13 hour flight from Buenos Aires to London. London to Dublin tomorrow. No one at airport knows what my repeal jumper means. No one here knows why I'm travelling. If this feels isolating for me, can't imagine how lonely it must be 4 her, travelling 2 the UK #HomeToVote— Ciaran Gaffney (@gaffneyciaran) May 22, 2018
Many will be traveling back from the US, where cities with large Irish populations, such as New York, have seen their own Repeal and Pro-Life movements supporting the campaigns back home.
"The fact of the matter is that abortions do happen, and will continue to happen whether this referendum passes or not. If it passes, it will allow for equal medical attention for every woman in need, not merely those with the resources to be able to travel to obtain it," Lucie Heseltine, who now lives in Brooklyn, told Metro.
"The fact that Irish people living abroad are not afforded the opportunity to vote on something as important as constitutional reform is a travesty and something that needs to be changed.
“I am lucky enough to be in the position where I am able to return home to vote in the referendum. I see it as my responsibility to do so.”
Many more will be traveling from the UK, where some students are flying in between exams to cast their vote.
“It’s the worst timing in the world, but like I think I would be so sorry, regardless of the outcome, for myself, I’d have so many regrets not coming home,” said Rachel Kelly, who will finish an exam in London at 12pm, land in Dublin at 5pm, and rush to Dun Laoghaire to the polling station before flying back for another exam the next day.
“It’s going to be a bit mad. I’ll probably be cursing myself on the day, but I’m very glad I can do it”, she added.
“I really hope I’ll see other people on the day. It’s such an amazing feeling of solidarity.”
In fact, bursaries had been made available for Irish students living in the UK in order to help them fly home, as many would have been prevented from doing so for financial reasons. Working with their UK counterpart, the Union of Students Ireland, which is campaigning for the Yes, Repeal campaign, has offered a small sum for those wishing to get back to Ireland for the Eighth Amendment Referendum.
"Students can get between £55 and £110 to pay for the flights home to vote 'Yes' on May 25th,” USI President Michael Kerrigan told RTÉ. While the USI is a pro-choice campaigner, they were not screening students’ own choice when offering the bursary.
Some have even farther to travel but even a flight halfway across the world will not deter them from making it home.
“I was coming home from the second I knew it was happening,” said Christine Howell, who now lives in Australia.
My lovely son is coming #hometovote. This poor student used his birthday money to buy plane ticket home. Just messaged me "we will get you to the Emerald City on Friday" ❤️ He will #voteyes with his Dad. For his sister, his Mum & women of Ireland #togetherforyes @Men4Yes— Colette Kelleher (@ColetteKelleher) May 22, 2018
“When I move back home, I want to return to a safe place and know that I will be taken care of. I have loads of nieces, my sisters, all my friends and I want them to be safe too, not be embarrassed about what’s happening and for the stigma to go.”
This Friday, May 25, 2018, will be the day when the people of Ireland vote on whether to make Ireland's abortion laws - which are currently some of the most restrictive in the world - more liberal.
Currently, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, ratified in 1983, gives mothers and unborn equal rights to life. On May 25, 2018, the Irish public will have the chance to vote to allow the Irish Parliament (Dáil Éireann) to put forth new abortion legislation.
While abortion is supposed to be allowed in Ireland if the life of the mother is at risk, it is illegal apart from this, even in the cases of rape, incest, or a fatal fetal abnormality. Despite this, it is estimated that as many as 12 Irish women a day travel abroad for an abortion or illegally purchase abortion pills.
I'm coming #HomeToVote ! Will be traveling 5,169 miles from LA to Dublin and will be thinking of every Irish woman who has had to travel to access healthcare that should be available in their own country. Let's do this, Ireland! #repealthe8th #VoteYes pic.twitter.com/fZDxUIGrs9— Lauryn Canny (@LaurynCanny) May 23, 2018
May 25 will mark the first time the Irish people will have voiced their opinions on the issue of abortion since 1983. There were unsuccessful referendums in 1992 and in 2002 which would have overturned this decision and removed the risk of suicide as a ground for an abortion, with regard to the famous "X Case", when a 13-year-old girl was denied abortion after she was raped.
How are you voting on Friday? Be sure to let us know in our poll here.
Still undecided? You can read more information about the referendum here.