#HOMETOVOTE: MAKE IRELAND A COUNTRY YOU WANT TO COME BACK TO

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Generation emigration has a stake in the outcome of the Eighth Amendment referendum, writes Joey Kavanagh

In February 2015, after the Irish government confirmed a referendum on same-sex marriage, I set up a campaign called Get The Boat 2 Vote. It encouraged vote-eligible Irish people to return home and vote in support of equal marriage.

Three years on, despite fantastic work by campaigns like Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad and VotingRights.ie, it’s disappointing to see that the criteria under which an Irish citizen living abroad is deemed to be "vote-eligible" remains exceptionally narrow by international standards.

Under existing legislation, those who move away for a period of less than 18 months retain voting rights but, in the absence of any provisions for a postal vote or proxy vote, it’s necessary to travel home in order to cast your ballot.

By comparison, for the Brexit referendum in the UK, British citizens living abroad for up to 15 years were able to vote and could do so without a journey home.

In 2015, despite the barriers to their participation in the marriage referendum, many vote-eligible citizens decided to book flights and ferries and come #HomeToVote.

Many others were unable to take part - because they had been away too long, or were unable to travel - but made their voices heard through campaigns like Be My Yes.

Despite the inconvenience and expense, I expect we’ll see many recent emigrants return for the forthcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The incredible work of campaigns, like the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, have illustrated the extent to which the so-called "generation emigration" has a stake in the outcome of this vote.

The Irish nation extends beyond its borders. If you’re an Irish citizen living abroad, I urge you to do what you can in the coming months to help shape an Ireland you can be proud to return to.

Eligible to vote and have the means to travel home? Great.

If not? Seek out or help organise demonstrations and rallies in your city to show solidarity, or multiply the vote you’ve been denied by our outdated legislation by motivating friends and family to get to the polling stations and vote for change.

Hannah Little