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Ex-pats are drawn back home to make mark on a decisive and divisive day

By Gillian Halliday

It was a once-in-a-generation event that brought the Republic's ex-pats from all over the globe back to their homeland.

But even closer to home, countless numbers of Irish citizens were making the rather shorter journey from Northern Ireland across the border so they could have their say in the abortion referendum.

Dubliner and mother-of-two Mairead Hayes was getting the mid-afternoon coach from Glengall Street in Belfast yesterday, to her home suburb of Finglas - and later on, a return coach to Northern Ireland - all to ensure that she would be a part of the historic occasion.

"It's a really important day for the country and I wanted my vote to count. I'm voting Yes because I want women to have a choice. And it is something I want to be available everywhere, including up here," said Mairead.

On board another Belfast-to-Dublin coach 30 minutes later, was 23-year-old Orla McIntyre, accompanied by fellow student Alex Devine. The pair told the Belfast Telegraph that they were travelling the 100-mile journey to Dublin to put an 'x' beside the option to repeal the Eighth Amendment. "I've decided to vote that way because I'm a student and I've spoken to my friends about the issues involved," said Orla.

Alex added: "I think it's important that Ireland comes into the 21st century, in terms of human rights."

A while later, 30-year-old Cara Martin, from Dublin, stepped off the coach in Belfast. She said she voted Yes because she didn't think women's choices should be restricted.

"I don't think a woman should be forced to carry a child if there's an issue like fatal foetal abnormality. I do agree with Simon Harris (the Republic's Heath Minister), though that it should be restricted to 12 weeks," she said.

Meanwhile, university graduate Lee Rowsame, who was heading home to Wexford, via Dublin, said he was keen to ensure that he listened to both sides of the debate before he decided that he would be voting yes.

"I think the main reason is that I believe a woman should be given the choice to do what she wants with her own body.

"Throughout the campaigning I did weigh up all the options, but it's always been more on the Yes side," said the 22-year-old.

Dubliner Lucy Dawson, meanwhile, had an early start to get to the polling station in her home city, and after making the return journey to Belfast after a long day, the 31-year-old health worker said she was "pretty sure" the #TogetherforYes campaign would triumph.

"From what I saw in Dublin, there was definitely more Yes voters, but that was obviously being in an urban area.

"I do think the No campaign is more prominent in country areas.

"For me, it was simply a case of 'my body, my right'," she explained.

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