Thousands return to Ireland to vote in abortion referendum
Irish ex-pats from all over the world are returning home to cast their votes in the upcoming referendum.
Thousands of people are travelling home to Ireland from as far away as Latin America and Asia to cast their votes in Friday’s abortion referendum.
Eager voters took to Twitter to document their travels to have their say on the eighth amendment – a law banning abortion in almost all circumstances.
Ciaran Gaffney, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, spotted four of his countrymen on a plane home to vote.
Was actually so humbled and relieved to meet four other Irish people on the flight from Buenos Aires to London, all of them flying onwards to Dublin today or tomorrow to #voteyes. #hometovote #together4yes— Ciaran Gaffney (@gaffneyciaran) May 23, 2018
He tweeted: “Was actually so humbled and relieved to meet four other Irish people on the flight from Buenos Aires to London, all of them flying onwards to Dublin today or tomorrow to #voteyes.”
Aisling Hayes journeyed all the way from Singapore to make it home for the referendum.
She tweeted: “Starting the long journey home from Singapore to vote. Worth every penny to contribute to create a better, fairer and equal Ireland. #hometovote #repealthe8th”.
Aoife Bennett, 25, an editor with a travel magazine based in Dortmund, Germany, will be making the journey back to Dublin to vote then making the return journey in less than 24 hours.
She tweeted: “I’m flying home for not even 24 hours to vote for this. Anyone I’ve said this to hasn’t called me a muppet. Or insane. They’re thanking me. This is the most important referendum we may ever face. Of course I was coming home.”
I'm flying home for not even 24 hours to vote for this. Anyone I've said this to hasn't called me a muppet. Or insane. They're thanking me. This is the most important referendum we may ever face. Of course I was coming home. #hometovote #RepealTheEighth #Repeal— Christmas Tr-Aoife 🎄🎄 (@PrettyPPD) May 22, 2018
She told the Press Association: “This referendum is about giving women the respect we deserve. I cannot believe that, in this sense, Ireland is held back by values that are over 100 years old.”
She said that a year ago her mother was diagnosed with cancer, but was told by doctors that if she were pregnant she would not be given the life-saving treatment she needs.
Ms Bennett said: “It makes me shiver to think that if she had been diagnosed 26 years ago, or 21 – my brother’s age – we could have killed her because we would have been seen as more important.”
She continued: “Anyone who is undecided, I would take yourself out of it and think of the women you love in your live.
“Your mother, daughter, sister, niece, friend, whatever she is to you. In the future, if she comes to you saying she is in a crisis pregnancy, would you want to be able to say you have done everything in your power to help her?
“Or would you want to tie the shackles on her hand even tighter?”
Elsewhere, travel writer Alice Murphy, who covers the Philippines and Australia, offered to stump up the cash for another person to travel home from the UK to vote “yes” because she could not make it herself.
Irish working in the UK: if there is anyone who can fly home to vote on Friday but doesn’t have the money, please DM me - I will pay for your flights home as I can’t come home myself. #HometoVote #Repeal8th #TogetherForYes— Alice Murphy (@alicemurphy13) May 23, 2018
She tweeted: “Irish working in the UK: If there’s anyone who can fly home to vote on Friday but doesn’t have the money, please DM me – I will pay for your flights home as I can’t come home myself. #HometoVote #Repeal8th #TogetherForYes.”
Many people living in Ireland offered to help those travelling home in any way they could.
Paraic O’Donnell, author of The Maker Of Swans and The House On Vesper Sands, decided to act as a free taxi service from Dublin airport to reduce costs for people who had made it back to vote.
He told the Press Association: “This is a really tiny contribution – there are activists who have given years of their lives to make this happen – I don’t want to overstate my role.
“This is a historic moment for us. It’s an opportunity to correct a historic injustice and I don’t want to look back and wonder if there was more I could have done.
“It’s a way of showing that we are standing with these women and we won’t neglect them and that we are there in their darkest hour and we won’t leave them on their own – we are going to stand with them and take care of them.”
Mr O’Donnell travelled from his home in Wicklow to offer lifts to anyone who needed one.
Eve Geddie, 37, who works with a migrants’ rights organisation in Brussels, made the journey back with her two young children.
She told the Press Association: “It’s really important for the country. Ireland introduced this amendment in the 1980s – since then we’ve legalised divorce, we’ve legalised gay marriage and this is the next change we need to make.”
She said that people who vote “no” were only really voting against safe, legal abortions within Ireland, as women would either travel, turn to backstreet abortionists or dangerous pills obtained online.
She said as part of her job she had travelled to Malta and Poland where abortion is also banned.
“Our research found that many migrant women who didn’t have proper access to reproductive healthcare were obtaining backstreet abortions – this was a group that couldn’t travel. Poor women and girls.”
She continued: “Historically there have always been groups that have suffered more, whereas some people are able to book a flight and a hotel. That’s why it’s important to me.”