Irish abortion referendum: Home To Vote campaign sees people travel back from around the world

May Bulman

Irish people from around the world are travelling back to their home country – sometimes journeying thousands of miles – to cast their vote in a referendum that could end the country’s ban on abortion.

In a show of unity echoing the movement that took off ahead of the 2015 vote that legalised same-sex marriage, the #HometoVote hashtag has been used more than 43,000 times as voters unite in making journeys to have their say in deciding whether or not to repeal Ireland’s eighth amendment.

The "Yes" campaign has rapidly picked up steam in recent years, spurred on by cases such as the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012. If the eighth amendment is repealed, it will allow for the Irish government to legislate on abortion as they see fit, most likely permitting terminations up to 12 weeks.

People on both sides of the debate are travelling back to cast their ballot, but the movement has been spearheaded by the pro-choice movement, with many voters sharing photos of themselves in “Repeal” jumpers and paying tribute to women who have had to travel for terminations.

Laurvyn Canny, who travelled 5,169 miles from Los Angeles to Dublin, said she would be thinking of "every Irish woman who has had to travel to access healthcare that should be available in their own country", adding: "Let's do this, Ireland!”

Aoife, a journalism graduate in her twenties who flew home for less than 24 hours in order to vote, said: “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.”

Others making long journeys to cast their votes are Nora, who took the 12-hour trip from Sweden, Siobhan Gillroy, who took the long flight from Queensland to Dublin and Louise Barry, who travelled 30 hours from Bangkok to Dublin.

Along with the swathes of women taking to social media to say they were travelling home to “#Repealthe8th”, many Irish men living outside the country made the journey back to cast their vote.

Ciaran Gaffney, a European studies graduate based in Buenos Aires, boarded a 13-hour flight from Buenos Aires to London and then from London to Dublin on Wednesday.

“No one at airport knows what my ‘Repeal’ jumper means. No one here knows why I'm travelling,” he wrote on Twitter. “If this feels isolating for me, can't imagine how lonely it must be for her, travelling to the UK.”

After the flight the following day, he said he was “humbled and relieved” to meet four other Irish people on his flight making the same journey as him for the same reason.

Another male voter spent his birthday money on a flight home, according to his mother, Colette Kelleher, who tweeted: “This poor student used his birthday money to buy plane ticket home.

“Just messaged me 'We will get you to the Emerald City on Friday' He will vote yes with his Dad. For his sister, his Mum and the women of Ireland.”

The two biggest parties in the country, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are allowing members to take a free position on the issue, while Sinn Fein and Labour are officially backing a Yes vote.