How engaged are the Irish abroad with the general election? Robert Mulhern asked emigrants in London of different generations and professional backgrounds what issues are important to them — or do they even care?
Profession: Construction worker
Based in: Archway, north London.
Glen Hanley is a crane operator working beside Archway Tube Station in north London. He came to England after the economic crash.
He’s one of a number of Irish construction workers on his building site.
“I wouldn’t be interested in the election in Ireland because I’m not living there anymore. It might sound a bit bad to say but it doesn’t affect me. Saying that, I’d care for the people living at home, I just wouldn’t have that much of an interest in it.
“If I’m pushed on one issue I’d be interested in as an emigrant, it is repealing the eighth amendment on abortion. That’s the biggest thing. Ireland is behind the times again because it’s a Catholic country and it’s time they woke up and caught up with the world.
“I wouldn’t be waiting to see if the economy is going to improve because I can’t ever see myself settling there again. Maybe here in the UK, there’s a group of people who plan on settling back, so they’ll probably cast an eye on it to see what’s going on.
“I don’t think Irish people of my generation living in the UK, Canada and Australia would really be thinking about it at all — they are having too much of a good time.
“How do I feel about the prospect of Enda Kenny being Taoiseach again? Well, I don’t even like him for being Taoiseach now, so no, I’m not really a big fan of his.”
Based in: Central London
Katy Harrington is digital editor with Britain’s long time Irish news platform, The Irish Post.
“My generation of emigrants are definitely engaged with home and Ireland. They read Irish newspapers online, they keep in touch. But here’s the litmus test, if you asked any member of the Irish population here under the age of 40, to name 10 people from the front bench of the current government, they would be hard pressed. But they are interested in the bigger issues because they are thinking maybe they’ll move back one day.
London can be exhausting and I’m not going to be able to afford a house here, ever. It’s at the back of people’s minds that they will one day go home. So the big issues are Brexit and abortion. Irish people here are worried about Britain not being part of the Euro and the repercussions of same. Abortion is the other one. If you are not planning on going back then you’re not going to be affected by these but people are planning to or believe there’s a chance they might.
“If you can find me one Irish person here who will go back specially to vote in this election, I’ll take my hat off to you. But if a referendum on gay marriage comes up or something that gets them interested, then they are willing to participate.”
Based in: Wandsworth, south west London
Colm Lynch is a publican and businessman living and working in Wandsworth for over 20 years. His pub, the Hop Pole, is popular with Irish emigrants living around South West post codes like Fulham, Putney and Clapham Junction.
“I’m here nearly 21 years but I’d always have an interest in what’s going on at home.
“I’ve a property back there and laws are changing all the time. I’ve a brother in the guards back there also, so what happens in the public service is close to my heart too.
“And, I’d never rule out thoughts of moving home. I think most Irish people here would have an interest in the election. There’s always an Irish paper on the bar counter here and people pick it up.
“My age group are still young enough to go back and it’s a question we’d often ask each other. I’ve seen a lot going back in the last few years and what’s going to happen with the economy and who is in government will play a major part in that.
“I’ve never been a one party man and I’ve never gone home to vote in over 20 years. To be quite honest I’m not sure if we still have a vote at home now but if I felt strongly enough about something I’d like to think I’d go back to vote. I don’t think any politician has ever inspired me to be honest and my view of Enda Kenny from abroad is that he’s a figure head.
“It’s not a personal thing but who else is going to do it? I guess you have to give Fine Gael some credit for what recovery there is.
“It’s probably a case of better the devil you know right now but I’d like to see them in a coalition again so they’d be kept in check.
“I know at home in Navan, Sinn Féin have guys like Peadar Tóibín and Joe Reilly who have done an awful lot at local level. If I lived there they would be guys I’d vote for.”
Based in: North London
Pat Quinn from Wicklow and his wife Patricia from Kerry are grandparents and have lived in London for over 40 years.
They are retired, Labour voters and party leader Jeremy Corbyn is their local MP.
The couple are one of a handful of Irish families living on Hatchard Road near the Holloway Road — a thoroughfare still synonymous with Irish emigrants.
“I wouldn’t have an affiliation with any party at home, not with me being here 40 years.
“I’m so long out of it I can’t even remember who my family voted for back then, but I always remember big chats after Mass about politics.
“I still read the Irish papers to try and keep up with things, the sport especially and I’d be interested in the outcome of the election because there are people in Ireland that belong to me. I’d like to see them get a good deal.
“There are similar problems there as here, difficulties with housing, accommodation doesn’t seem to be there and people down the country seem to be getting it rough.
“In terms of issues I’d like to see addressed as an emigrant, maybe if they could do something for the homeless Irish here so they could retire back there.
“I know a certain amount has been done but you feel for them after all the years, fellas who have worked hard all their lives and are now down on their luck.
“Back in Ireland, my interest would be from the point of view that I’ve family there: Rural crime and older people having their homes broken into, the cutting back of gardaí and police stations. You would like to see whoever comes in address those issues.
“Our children and grandchildren are here so you wouldn’t be looking at the election through the perspective that we might live there again. I know we will finish out our lives here.”
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