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'I feel morally obliged to come home to vote. I couldn't bear the stress and guilt I would feel if I hadn't'

What is motivating the people coming home to vote and those sponsoring them?

IRELAND HAS AN incredible and often tragic history of emigration. To quote Ed Byrne, ‘Irish people have been emigrating since we learnt how to get into a boat’.

But what happens when of the biggest votes of your generation is happening in Ireland and you’re halfway across the globe? Should you come home to vote? Are you able to afford to come home to vote?

These are the questions that many Irish people have been asking themselves in the last few weeks as we gear up for the referendum on the 8th Amendment this Friday. Many, many Irish citizens are making the long journeys to come home and cast their votes on one of the most controversial topics we as a country have ever faced. So what’s motivating them to do it?

Jennifer Cassidy is a lecturer and PhD in Oxford University. She witnessed a motion being brought to Oxford University Students Union requesting it to fund students who wished to travel home to vote, regardless of which side they were on.  The motion which was brought forward by the Union of Students Ireland (USI) and National Union of Students (NUS) passed which means students can be funded so they can get home and cast their votes.

No words can accurately describe the feeling of not being able to actively participate in how your nations narrative will be sculpted, and what its future will look like. It is perhaps for this very reason, that so many Irish people abroad felt compelled, by any means they could, to work towards the outcome they wish to see announced on May 26th.

Rohan Madhavan had to make two trips as he wasn’t registered to vote. He’s currently studying in Budapest and flew home on May 4th so he could register. He was then funded by people in the Abroad for Yes group so as he could pay for a second flight to come back to Ireland to vote. What motivated him to make not one, but two trips in the middle of his exams?

It’s important to me because I have so many women in my life, female friends, my mother, my sisters, my girlfriend – the thought of any of them being denied healthcare in their own country is a complete and utter mockery of the state. I am human, and can understand that basic medical care should be a right that every single Irish woman should have available to them.

Source: Niall Carson

Rohan is incredibly grateful to Abroad for Yes who have funded him, his sister Sagari who studies in Budapest with him and his younger sister Maya who studies in Poland.

The support on the page has been simply outstanding. I myself was fully funded and had my flights booked in under 24 hours. We are 5 days out from the election and the page is still gaining momentum, with flights funded to bring people back from all over Europe as well as Australia in as little as 2 hours.

Ciaran Gaffney is making the trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina and said he was always going to come home and had been saving money in anticipating of having to book flights.

I feel morally obliged to come home to vote. I couldn’t bear the stress, anxiety and guilt I would feel in the weeks coming up to the referendum if I hadn’t booked that flight, given that I am lucky that my current financial circumstances allow me to travel.

Source: RollingNews.ie

The Marriage Equality referendum in 2015 had a huge effect on Ciaran and he wants to pay it back.

As a gay man, I was directly affected by the marriage equality referendum in 2015, and when I saw that people had traveled great lengths to vote yes then, it was incredibly moving. I want to return that favour to my sisters, my female friends, and the rest of women in Ireland. A no vote is to chastise and punish these women. It is to treat these women as criminals, and puts them in an even more vulnerable situation. The 8th amendment is archaic. It needs to be removed.

Niamh Kelly will be making the trip from Vietnam and says that missing the Marriage Equality Referendum because she was studying aboard motivated her to make sure she was here for this one.

As an Irish woman, I want to feel safe in my own country, and right now I know that I don’t. We have a chance to change the way we view and treat women who are in crisis.  We have a chance to make sure that pregnant women in maternity hospitals have their wishes and views respected. We have a chance to treat fully grown women with families and friends and memories and fully realised lives with more respect than a mere vessel.

Niamh also told me that without Abroad for Yes, she wouldn’t be able to get home.

I wanted to do everything to make sure I made it back this time. This vote is as important as the marriage equality vote, but a lot more divisive, and every vote counts. When I saw the Abroad For Yes group on Facebook, I was blown away by all the amazing stories and people’s generosity. If it wasn’t for the brilliant folks on that page, I’m not sure I’d be making it home.

Abroad for Yes has been vital in funding the journeys of many people coming home to vote. People who are unable to vote, unable to make it back to vote or who are just very generous have been paying for people’s flights.

The person who needs the flight must show that they’re registered to vote in Ireland and display the flights they need. Then people fund them either through PayPal or GoFundMe. The generosity has been incredible and people have many different reasons for donating to strangers so they can get home.

Alison Gibney is a former UCD Students Union and USI Welfare Officer who now lives in New York. She has first hand experience of trying to help women travel to the UK to get a termination from her time in those positions.

My voice will not be heard on the matter and I didn’t want finances to be a barrier for the young people who DO have the right to vote. The younger generation helped pass gay marriage and I believe they will be the difference in repealing the 8th.

Gemma De Faoite has also lost her vote having been out of Ireland for 18 months and wanted to make sure someone else could vote in her place.

I figured as I couldn’t place my vote myself, I would help out someone in the UK who was eligible but couldn’t afford to get back. I bought flights for a girl who is on a work placement in Brighton with limited income. What would have been two lost votes is now just one!

Chloe Doyle has been living in the UK for the last 8 years but has never forgotten the effect that the 8th Amendment has on her family back in Ireland.

I know how lucky I am in to live in a country where this will never be an issue for me and I can access the necessary care should I need to. I’ve seen first hand the impact its had on friends of mine and find it horrifying that in modern day Ireland women still have no control over their own bodies.

We will only see the full impact of #HomeToVote on Friday as the hashtag will be filled with the journeys of many Irish people returning home. There’s no doubt both Marriage Equality and the 8th Amendment has mobilised voters more than other past referendums. The question is, will that be enough?

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About the author:

Rachel O'Neill

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