There has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about how this election will go. My inner optimist is saying (shouting from the rooftops, more like) that of course it will pass, we are a modern society with progressive people and our country has come a long way. My inner pessimist (ye olden Irish “what can go wrong will go wrong”) is saying we’re not giving enough credit to the manipulative propaganda of the No side. The message of the referendum has been muddled beyond belief – mixed in with fears about surrogacy, adoption, what our children are taught in school and the effects on those who don’t believe that LGBT people should have the same rights as heterosexual people.
And then last night, there came #hometovote.
We all know that the youth of Ireland have gone in their droves abroad in search of opportunities, work, a new life, something outside of the humdrum of life in Recessionista Ireland. While some of us have stayed for our own reasons, we all know at least one (if you’re my age change that to many) who have headed off and honestly don’t know if they’ll come back. They left an Ireland who refused to see LGBT people have equal rights. And given the chance to change the Ireland that they may hope to come home to, or where their loved ones live still, they have come home in their droves.
While those long term emigrated do no longer have their right to vote, Citizens Information tells us “If you leave your address but you plan to return there within 18 months, you can continue to be registered there, as long you do not register at any other address.” This means that a lot of (mostly) young people who have left within the last 18 months have made the trip back to visit Mammy and Daddy, see the motherland, and make sure our country changes for the better.
Twitter was alight with tweets using the hashtag “#hometovote”. Pictures of packed airports, flights, trains and buses flooded newsfeeds. Many tears were had, if my twitter feed is to be believed. And the inner pessimist in me was elbowed by the optimist, who was roaring and shouting “Lads, we might actually manage to do this! We’re going to make it happen!”.
I am grateful to those who have come home, at great personal expense, from many different countries, leaving behind their jobs, friends, other halves for a weekend to ensure their voice is counted among the many. They’ve come for a variance of reasons; some themselves are personally affected by the change, for others it is family and friends who are affected. Regardless of their reasoning, I am incredibly grateful for their actions; as it is going towards ensuring the country I live in and am raising my child in is going to be a more equal, friendly and loving place.
If you want to check out the feed (and I really, really recommend you do, it does the heart good!) you can do it here. The pictures are well worth a gander too.
If you’re still in two minds about voting today, hopefully these people and their stories can convince you of the truth; voting yes will allow our citizens, all of our adult citizens, to marry the person they love, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Nothing more, nothing less. This is not about children, or anything but the right to a civil marriage and the rights that come with that in our society. You don’t need a polling card if one hasn’t arrived, just ID and turning up at the correct polling centre (give your county/city council a call and they’ll let you know). Don’t leave it off thinking its a given, or that you’re too busy – if Una Mullally can get herself out of hospital and all of these people can come home from other countries, you can put down that Netflix Marathon and make your way out to the polling station. It’s open until 10pm.
Go on, make it an Ireland we can be proud of. Vote Yes to Marriage Equality.