Referendum: Thousands make the journey home to vote

Helen Kennedy was one of the many emigrants that returned home yesterday to vote. Picture: @HKHunterKiller

Across the country, queues were forming. Thousands upon thousands, waiting at their nearest polling stations to cast their vote in what, to some, is one of the most important referendums Ireland has ever had.

Overseas, thousands more were also queuing — in line at the train station, the bus station, the airport, and the port, ready to come home, stand up, and be counted.

It wasn’t long before the movement began to trend on Twitter. By midday, more than 27,000 tweets had been sent with the hashtag #hometovote. The internet was awash with photos and statements from our far flung youth.

Niamh Broderick from Limerick and Daragh McCoy from Clare travelled home from Britain yesterday.

READ MORE: People are sharing their #HomeToVote stories and it’s lovely .

“I would have been so disappointed in myself if I couldn’t come home to vote for something I’ve believed in for such a long time,” said Niamh. “I don’t think I’d be able to look at my friends if I didn’t do everything I could to help them get marriage equality.”

Visit our special Referendum 2015 section for all the latest news and analysis

Darragh said he also had gay friends and wants them to have exactly the same rights he does. “I feel we all deserve to be equal regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation,” he said. “This is a generation-defining referendum. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Mike Bathke from Kildare and now living in Bristol also returned home to vote.

“I feel voting is my duty to my community, my people, my LGBT family, and my country,” he said.

Referendum: Thousands make the journey home to vote

Naomi O’Leary captured this scene on the 9:10 London to Holyhead

train as Irish abroad returned home to vote. Picture: @NaomiOhReally

“On the plane over I felt like I was going to some kind of war. A war against bigotry, a war for my own human rights.”

Sarah Whitacre has been living in London since last year — the Dubliner emigrated to find a job and now works in PR.

“Living abroad when you feel so passionately about something is quite hard, there’s so little we can do. But this is the time to make our voices heard,” she said.

“I’ve heard of so many people coming home to vote. The sense of community on social media is amazing, the #hometovote has me in tears here on the train.”

Irish citizens living abroad retain their right to vote in elections and referenda for 18 months after leaving the country — if they intend to return to live here within that timeframe.

Irish citizens living abroad for more than 18 months cannot legally vote.

READ MORE: People are sharing their #HomeToVote stories and it’s lovely .

Visit our special Referendum 2015 section for all the latest news and analysis

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