We Spoke To Irish People Travelling From Australia To Vote

Irish people living in Australia have spent thousands returning home to vote, while others unable to make the trip have donated to help students get home.

What you need to know
  • Thousands of Irish people are traveling home to vote in to repeal their constitution's eighth amendment, which effectively criminalises abortion
  • "It's something I believe in, so I was always going to be here," says one woman who traveled from Brisbane
  • A Facebook group has organised tens of thousands of dollars in donations to help Irish people abroad, particularly students, return home

On Friday, millions of people across Ireland will vote in a historic referendum to repeal their constitution's eighth amendment, which has effectively criminalised abortion since 1983.

Thousands of women every year make the journey from Ireland to the United Kingdom to undergo a termination, and obtain the procedure they cannot access at home. Over the last few days, thousands more living overseas -- both women and men -- have traveled home in order to vote.

People from across the world are journeying thousands of miles from countries including Brazil, Canada, Japan and Thailand to vote for a woman's right to access abortion, but those living in Australia have perhaps the furthest to travel.

"It's something I believe in, so I was always going to be here," Siobhan Gilroy, who traveled from Brisbane, told ten daily.

"Ireland needs to look after its women and stop exporting them. They need to be provided with the health care they need in their own country."

"When the vote was called, [myself and my wife] started thinking about whether we could afford for one of us to go home to vote," Steve Wilson, an Irish citizen who traveled from Newcastle, told ten daily.

"We're both passionately pro repeal (pro choice)."

Although his Australian-born wife -- a midwife trained in Ireland -- was eligible to vote, having become a naturalised Irish citizen, they decided it would make more sense for Steve to make the trip for family reasons. The trip ended up costing $1,180.

"Women are already allowed to get information on abortion and legally travel outside the state for one, so the eighth amendment isn’t really saving lives, it’s just sweeping a problem into next doors yard so to speak," he told ten daily.

"Women deserve to make their own choices about their own bodies and what happens to them, to have the state legislate against women in this way is shameful. Women need support, proper healthcare and the time to consider their options properly instead of being hurried into getting to England before a certain date."

"We have a horrible history of abusing so called ‘fallen women’ in this country... We have a lot to make up to the women of Ireland for."

Alice Murphy, a 24-year-old who moved from Dublin to Melbourne just weeks ago, told ten daily that she was feeling helpless being so far away from home at such an important time.

She couldn't afford to make the trip home, but has been able to donate smaller amounts to others making the trip to vote, thanks to a Facebook group set up to connect Irish people -- particularly students -- living overseas with other Irish people able to donate to their travel funds.

Called Abroad For Yes, the Facebook group has over 5000 members, and has helped organised tens of thousands of dollars to help fly Irish people home.

"It was really a most humbling experience to be a part of," Murphy told ten daily.

"The best side of humanity."

About 3,200 students in Ireland go abroad to Europe to study each year, but under Irish voting requirements were not eligible for a postal vote (something that is only offered to Irish officials on duty abroad and their spouses).

"Ireland is a small country with a huge diaspora," the group reads. "Many Irish permanently residing abroad are now considered ineligible to vote, as they have been out of the country too long, but have expressed their willingness to support fellow Irish citizens abroad who do have a vote in the Thirty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018.

"#AbroadForYes formed in a bid to connect students with potential supporters and try get as many Irish citizens home to vote as possible, predominantly students studying abroad and might not have the funds to get home."

Murphy told ten daily that she was donating to others within the group because "for too long, Ireland has failed its women".

"Irish women do not have agency over their own bodies because of the eighth, and this fact disproportionately impacts girls and women from disadvantaged backgrounds, women in direct provision and women from marginalized communities.

"Pregnancy is a wonderful thing but crisis pregnancy is not, and it is something that is not supported a single iota in Ireland.

"I want the 8th to be repealed for every woman who has been forced across the water for basic healthcare, and for every woman who has experienced the agony of a fatal foetal abnormality and has had no other option but to either carry her dead, much wanted child home in a box or leave it behind in a strange country."

One young Irish national told ten daily that it was his three years in Australia that led him to believe Ireland needed change.

"I realised how wrong it is here," Fergus told ten daily from Dublin. "Through family connections I've heard of people going over to Liverpool, putting themselves and career on the line," he said.

"[This vote] is about empowering women. A huge number are already making this decision to go overseas. I don't see the problem in legalising it, the Eighth isn't working. We've had disastrous stories. It doesn't work if people are risking their lives and career to go overseas."