| 6.7°C Belfast

Thousands return to Ireland to vote in abortion referendum

Irish citizens from all over the world have made the journey home to vote in the forthcoming abortion referendum.


Thousands were returning home to vote in Ireland's abortion referendum (Niall Carson/ PA)

Thousands were returning home to vote in Ireland's abortion referendum (Niall Carson/ PA)

Thousands were returning home to vote in Ireland's abortion referendum (Niall Carson/ PA)

Thousands of people have returned home to Ireland from as far away as Argentina and Asia to cast their votes in Friday’s abortion referendum.

Many people took time off work or cut their holidays short to make sure they had a say over the future of the eighth amendment, which bans abortion in almost all circumstances.

Ciaran Gaffney, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, spotted four of his countrymen on a plane home to vote.

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.”

Aoife Bennett, 25, an editor with a travel magazine based in Dortmund, Germany, will be making the journey to Dublin to vote then making the journey back 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.”

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 was planning on having more children” 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.”

Many people from the No camp also made the journey.

Eoin O’Loughlin, 20, from County Clare but living in London, told the Press Association at Dublin airport: “I think the unborn baby is entitled to life – I think the abortion procedure and the whole industry behind it is fairly frightening.

“I think obviously the pro-choice side talk a lot about the hard cases, but this legislation that the Government are proposing goes far beyond that and I think goes way too far and will be detrimental to Irish babies and mothers.”

He added: “There’s about 30 of us who are coming home over the next 24 hours. We’ve been in touch for the last few weeks and trying to organise flights together and so on.”

Mary Galvin, 73, from Wexford, cut her holiday to Italy short by a day to be home for the referendum to vote No.

She said: “I’ve been a nurse all my life – the hard cases, there are many hard cases, like a lady who had been raped, and you help deal with that and the aftermath of that, with support.

“I was involved in the pro-life back in 1983 and we had a lot to do with that.

“A lot of marching and it’s been something that’s very dear to my heart and I feel like there’s a lot of pain involved in abortion on young women through their lives – it will go on and on after the day it happens.

“I pray to god it doesn’t come in to the country.”

Another woman had returned home from her holiday in Croatia to cast her vote.

She said: “I’m certainly going to vote No. Of course I’m going to vote No.

“In a civilised country, that we’re actually going to the polls to be asked to decide whether we should make it legal to kill an unborn child I think is terrible, and people don’t seem to understand that every right is being taken away from every unborn child.”

Elsewhere, travel writer Alice Murphy, who covers the Philippines and Australia , even offered to stump up the cash for another person to travel home to vote from the UK to vote Yes because she could not make it herself.

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.”

Eve Geddie, 37, who works with a migrants’ rights organisation in Brussels, travelled back with her two young children.

She told the Press Association 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 also 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.”