7 Irish Emigrants On Why They’re Coming Home To Vote In Friday’s Referendum

Some of them are coming from as far off as Syria, Israel, and New York to vote, so you better do it too.

Lára Phillips works for a mobile commerce app in Berlin, Germany – she’s coming back on Wednesday to vote

“It’s important for me that this ban is overturned and that’s why I am returning home to vote. It will be a historic referendum and I think it speaks of a grander narrative – and that’s how the women of Ireland have been suppressed by the traditional religious values of the Catholic church for many years. These values have evoked a sense of shame and stigma around really important issues, that’s really sad to me but right now what fills me with hope is that women are no longer willing to stay silent. Last year attending the strikes, being physically present and hearing first-hand stories from women who have suffered as a result of this archaic ban left an impact. I felt deeply upset at the lack of respect and compassion our country shows towards these women.

I will fly home on Wednesday 23rd to hopefully get in some last minute canvassing. For any other expats out there, I know we feel that we can’t do much being overseas. It’s easy to feel removed but I’m so thankful for social media which keeps us in the loop. I realised our voices count and can have an impact from a distance. We can rally together and show solidarity in many ways! Whether that’s speaking up on social media or attending Repeal events.”

Sorcha Lowry works in media/communications in New York. She says telling people she’s flying home has prompted lots of conversations on the issue

“The 8th affects people’s lives everyday and will continue to do so if not repealed, that’s why I’m coming home to vote. This is a once in a generation opportunity to undo this harmful constitutional experiment and create the Ireland we want, which is a safer country for pregnant women. It will mean access to healthcare at home. I remember being shocked to learn that once a woman becomes pregnant, she no longer has full power over decisions made about her body – even if these decisions may affect her long term health, wellbeing and quality of life. The 8th doesn’t prevent abortion. It just makes it less safe, puts lives and health at risk and allows us to pretend it isn’t happening.

The flights went straight on my credit card and will be there for a while but I had to do my bit. Actually, saying I’m coming home to vote has been a very useful way of prompting conversations with people in my life about how I feel and why it’s so important to me. These are the conversations we need to having now.”

Niall Swan is a journalist based in London and says its vital that young people vote 

“It’s vital that young people vote in this referendum as it’s those people who will be most affected by it. With so many young Irish people forced to move abroad for work or simply a place to live, the #HomeToVote movement is of immeasurable importance. Irish women have been treated as second class citizens in their own country for far too long and it needs to change NOW.”

Aoife Cassin is a consultant based in Rome – she wants to be able to come home and live in a country where women have full reproductive rights

“I am now currently based in Rome, Italy working as a consultant for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat (based in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)) – Quite a mouthful, I know!

I’m flying home on May 25 to vote in solidarity with all of the women and girls that have been forced to travel abroad to terminate their pregnancies for whatever their reason. Ireland has not been able to provide healthcare for pregnant women and that needs to change. No woman or girl takes this decision lightly and it this personal decision that should no longer be in the hands of our government. I want to be able to return home and live in a country that allows women to exercise sovereignty over their own bodies. I want to be proud to live in a country where I am respected and treated as an equal with full reproductive choice.”

Aoife Keniry works for an NGO in Syria, and is heading back to Cork to vote on Friday

“I’m coming home from Amman, where I’m based, to vote next Friday in my home constituency of Cork South Central (they need all the Yes votes they can get). Sadly, and much to my disappointment, my vote is only serving to cancel out that of my mother’s – however loads of her friends (all around 70 plus) are surprising me with their Yes votes.

It’s incredibly important to me to do as much as I can to support the Yes campaign, and my friends and I all abroad have donated where we could since 2016. I started college in 2004 in UCC, and I remember vividly being handed out literature by the “pro life” soc – and then when my friends and I looked for a pro-choice soc, we were told that there was none. We tried to set one up, only to be told that it was “too divisive” and wouldn’t be approved for a college society. Admittedly, we were only setting it up because we were so ragin’ that the Iona institute had gotten in there first, but ever since that moment it’s been etched in my mind just how deeply rooted our distrust of women in Ireland is. I also went to a convent in Cork for my secondary school and had the joy of being visited by the “challenge team” (look them up) – 60 13-year-old girls being told that condoms have a one in six chance of failing, then being told that only sluts “give it up” before marriage, and the grand finale, a slideshow of photographs of various STIs. Good ole nuns!

There are a few of us Syria people from various NGOs in the region coming home, and other friends of mine who live abroad who can afford it are also coming back. I’m sick with worry that we aren’t enough, terrified that there are a few more shy nos out there, but having the conversations is a start.”

Jo Geany works in a London-based talent agency, and while she doesn’t know when she’ll live here again, she feels a responsibility to vote

“While I don’t currently live in Ireland and have no immediate plans to return, I feel I have a right and responsibility to vote in the referendum to play a part in Ireland’s future. Many of my Irish friends in London are no longer eligible to vote so I feel very lucky to be a position to do so and, in a way, I feel like I am voting for them too. I want to support my fellow Irish women and to create a fairer Ireland for future generations.

I am flying into Cork on Friday morning. Hopefully, my brother will collect me from the airport and we’ll go vote together. The flights were expensive but I reminded myself of the tens of thousands of women who had no choice but to take similar flights over the years and suddenly it didn’t seem like so much.”

Aine Gordon is an engineer placed in Tel Aviv on a temporary work assignment. She’ll be flying home with her boyfriend on May 24

“We’ve been away for a year, when you live abroad you can become a little ambassador for your country, describing how beautiful it is in Connemara, recounting the magic of a sing song in an Irish pub, and generally telling tales of the Craic. So, when people ask me about my Repeal jumper, and I explain to them how Ireland treats her pregnant people, I can’t help but feel especially ashamed when they recoil in disgust. Every single person I have spoken to, regardless of age, gender or nationality has been visibly appalled.

In my twenties I really didn’t think much about reproductive rights, I knew abortion was illegal but I was really pretty ignorant about the 8th Amendment and the implications of the 8th on every Irish pregnancy. Then Savita Halappanavar was allowed to die. That we could live in a country that let this happen horrified me. When my friends started trying to have families of their own, the realities of pregnancy, and tragically the realities of miscarriage became very real to me. I have friends who have lost desperately wanted babies, and what was already a devastating and tragic experience became a prolonged and humiliating ordeal. Being on the phone as they endured this, so far away from home, my heart aching for them, I felt overwhelming furious and completely and utterly powerless. But, now I have the power to do something, I have my vote, and there is no distance I would not travel for the chance to repeal this cruel and inhumane law.

So when the dates were set for the referendum I explained to my boss that I needed him to approve days off at shorter than normal notice, to go home to vote for abortion rights. As I had been harping on endlessly about the 8th Amendment he approved them straight away and my boyfriend and I booked our flights home, taking a night flight though Zurich to arrive back on the 24th. We travel home in the hopes that no more women will have to travel abroad to access the care and compassion they deserve. We travel, grateful that we have the means to do so, but grateful most of all to my brave friends and the brave strangers who have shared their deeply private tragedies to illuminate the harm done by the 8th amendment. We travel for them.”


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