#HOMETOVOTE: A REFERENDUM IS ON THE WAY AND IRELAND NEEDS YOU
The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign leads a global call to the Irish abroad - pledge to come #HomeToVote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced a vote on Ireland’s abortion laws should be held by the end of May. If you’re an Irish citizen living away from home, then you may be eligible to take part.
You need to have been living outside of Ireland for less than 18 months. There is no postal vote from abroad, so if you are eligible and want to have your say, you will need to travel home to do so. More details at hometovote.com.
In May 2015, we saw thousands of people return home to support the vote for marriage equality. We want to emulate that movement.
No-one under the age of 50 has had their say on the Eighth Amendment, which effectively bans abortion in almost all circumstances, even in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormality.
Since its introduction in 1983, more than 170,000 women have had to make the journey to Britain to access abortion services. It’s estimated at least 1,000 people a year order abortion pills online.
'Fresh off the boat'
In May we'll have a chance repeal this archaic law to allow the government to legislate on abortion provision. We can finally help to bring about a society, which provides compassionate healthcare for all our women. Every vote matters.
Mary Jane Fox, who recently moved to the UK, has already pledged to make the journey home.
"Even though I’m fresh off the boat in London, I’ll be making the journey and encouraging everyone I know to go back too.
"It’s ironic that so many Irish women are forced to make the same trip in reverse to have an abortion. I want to travel home to make sure this comes to an end."
'Bigger than the marriage equality referendum'
Dr Jennifer Kavanagh, Law Lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology said: "The Home to Vote campaign is a great initiative to make Irish voters living abroad aware of their rights to vote on the upcoming repeal the eight referendum.
"Irish people who are living abroad are eligible to vote for a period of 18 months after leaving Ireland if they intend to come back to Ireland. Considering that the 8th Amendment has affected people for the past 34 years it is important that anyone that intends to come back to Ireland to live can express their opinion on this issue.
"The impact of Irish people living abroad on the forthcoming referendum will probably be bigger than the marriage equality referendum.
"It is essential that everyone has their say on this matter and informing those that live abroad of their franchise and exercising their voting rights will have a big impact on the overall vote."
We’re pleased that Leo Varadkar is also standing with the women of Ireland, by acknowledging that the country has to stop exporting this issue and stop importing solutions.
The question is simple - do we reform our abortion laws or do we leave them as they are?
For every woman who has been forced to travel, for every family that has suffered and for our sisters, friends and daughters, we urge you to go #HomeToVote for repeal. Be part of an Ireland that listens to and trusts women.
We know some of you will still have questions, so we've done our best to answer them below:
Q: When is the referendum?
A: We are still awaiting confirmation of an exact referendum date. Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health, Simon Harris, have said that late May is very likely. Please hold back some annual leave so you’ll be able to travel #HomeToVote.
Q: I'm confused on whether or not I'm eligible to vote?
A: Whether or not you’re eligible to vote depends on how long you have been living outside of Ireland.
Under Section 11 (3) of the Electoral Act 1992, Irish citizens overseas may retain full voting rights for a period of 18 months, should they intend to resume residence within that time frame.
If you meet this criteria then please make sure you're on the register. If you have specific questions about your eligibility contact your local authority or Citizen's Information.
Q. I'm studying outside of Ireland. Am I eligible?
A: If your course of study is less than 18 months in duration and you intend to return home in this time frame, then you will be eligible under Section 11 (3) listed above.
If you are part of a short Erasmus programme you may be able to apply for a postal vote. Check with your local authority for details.
Q: What can I do if I am not eligible to vote?
1. You can make a donation to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment or the Abortion Rights Campaign.
2. You can find an a local group in your area and go home to help them canvass. Find a group here.
3. Talk to people. Don’t assume your friends, families and neighbours at home are voting to repeal. Ask them how they are voting and use our tips here to get the conversation started.
Visit hometovote.com for more details.