Ireland’s diaspora returns #HomeToVote in abortion referendum
Issued on: Modified:
On Friday, 25th May, Ireland is holding what looks set to be a knife-edge referendum on Irish abortion law, which will decide whether abortion is legalised in the country. Irish citizens living overseas don’t have the right to vote abroad – and so the country’s expats are coming home in droves to have their say in the historic poll.
Ireland is gearing up for a vote on the country’s draconian abortion law, a constitutional amendment that effectively bans terminations apart from when their life is at risk. In the referendum, voters will decide whether to repeal the 8th amendment – and so allow abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy - or to keep the law as is. Currently, women who seek or obtain abortions can face a jail sentence. This means that thousands of Irish women travel to the UK every year in order to get an abortion (in 2016, 3,265 Irish women left Ireland to have a termination in another country).
Another idiosyncrasy of Irish law means that Irish citizens don’t have the right to be on the electoral register if they live overseas, and not even postal voting is possible – which means that for elections and important referendums such as this one, Irish people living abroad have to make the trip back to their country of birth in order to vote.
Cue the hashtag flooding Irish social media: #HomeToVote. The hashtag reveals hundreds of Irish citizens travelling from all corners of the globe, from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires to Toronto, to come back and cast their vote.
1) Newcastle to Sydney Airport on 2 trains -3 hoursSteve Wilson (@Dublinactor) May 23, 2018
2)Plane to Abu Dhabi -16 hours
3) Plane to Ireland -8.5 hours
Repealing the 8th Amendment? Priceless.
(Step 1 almost complete) #Together4YES #menforyes #HomeToVote #hometoveote #repealThe8th pic.twitter.com/tsG4Bh57n2
Lads, the pure dote at the car hire desk saw my badge and jumper and waived the cross border fees with a wink and a smile, wished us luck and the pure overwhelming love I feel now has put dust in my eye. Scraping the money together was a struggle but I’m #hometovote #VoteYes #mná pic.twitter.com/NeKxtgB03aLauren O'Sullivan (@Sullubrious) May 23, 2018
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/fZDxUIGrs9Lauryn Canny (@LaurynCanny) May 23, 2018
People are also coming out to offer support to get those Irish voters home on time. Some people are offering lifts in their cars via the hashtag #VoterMotor, and even offering to pay transport costs for Irish people trying to travel back to the country.
I’m off this Friday so am free to drive people to polling stations around Dublin all day if people need! (No voters need not apply) #MotorVoterRachyes Egyes (@RachEgan91) May 23, 2018
If you're a Yes voter in Dublin Central, Dublin North West or Dublin West and need a lift to the polling station on Friday morning, I'm happy to help! @DublinRepeal8 @dublinnwrepeal @repealdubwest#VoterMotor #DrivingForRepeal #Together4YesSiobhán Silke (@siobh_ie) May 23, 2018
And it looks to be a close vote: the most recent polls put the Yes vote (Yes to repealing the amendment and legalising abortion) slightly ahead at 56-58% of the vote -- but the 14-17% of undecided voters could tip the balance.
It’s not the first time #HomeToVote has been used. In 2015, Ireland held a referendum on whether to legalise same-sex marriage, and in typical cheery fashion, Irish expats and travellers thronged airports, ferry terminals and train stations as they headed back to vote. The result? Same-sex marriage was legalised.