Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced a vote on Ireland’s abortion laws will be held by the end of May. If you’re an Irish citizen living away from home, then you may be eligible to take part.

You need to have been living outside of Ireland for less than 18 months. There is no postal vote from abroad, so if you are eligible and want to have your say, you will need to travel home to do so.

In May 2015, we saw thousands of people return home to support the vote for marriage equality. We want to emulate that movement.

No-one under the age of 50 has had their say on the Eighth Amendment, which effectively bans abortion in almost all circumstances, even in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormality.

Since its introduction in 1983, more than 170,000 women have had to make the journey to Britain to access abortion services.  It’s estimated at least 1,000 people a year order abortion pills online.  

In May we’ll have a chance repeal this archaic law to allow the government to legislate on abortion provision. We can finally help to bring about a society, which provides compassionate healthcare for all our women. Every vote matters.   

Mary Jane Fox, who recently moved to the UK, has already pledged to make the journey home. 

“Even though I’m fresh off the boat in London, I’ll be making the journey and encouraging everyone I know to go back too. 

“It’s ironic that so many Irish women are forced to make the same trip in reverse to have an abortion. I want to travel home to make sure this comes to an end.” 

We’re pleased that Leo Varadkar is also standing with the women of Ireland, by acknowledging that the country has to stop exporting this issue and stop importing solutions. 

The question is simple – do we reform our abortion laws or do we leave them as they are? 

For every woman who has been forced to travel, for every family that has suffered and for our sisters, friends and daughters, we urge you to go #HomeToVote for repeal. Be part of an Ireland that listens to and trusts women. 

We know some of you will still have questions, so we’ve done our best to answer them below:  


A: We are still awaiting confirmation of an exact referendum date. Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health, Simon Harris, have said that late May is very likely. Please hold back some annual leave so you’ll be able to travel #HomeToVote


A: Whether or not you’re eligible to vote depends on how long you have been living outside of Ireland. 

Under Section 11 (3) of the Electoral Act 1992, Irish citizens overseas may retain full voting rights for a period of 18 months, should they intend to return to Ireland within that time frame. 

If you meet this criteria then please make sure you’re on the register


A: If your course of study is less than 18 months in duration and you intend to return home in this time frame, then you will be eligible under Section 11 (3) listed above. 

If you are part of an Erasmus programme you may be able to apply for a postal vote. Check with your local authority for details


A: Plenty!

1. You can make a donation to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment or the Abortion Rights Campaign.

2. You can find an a local group in your area and go home to help them canvass. Find a group here

3. Talk to people. Don’t assume your friends, families and neighbours at home are voting to repeal. Ask them how they are voting and use our tips here to get the conversation started.


Repeal the 8th: The Role of Trade Unions

Jointly hosted by the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment (TUCR8A) and the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth, this public meeting dealt with article 40.3.3 as a work-place, class, equality and human rights issue. Like most trade union meetings, Repeal the 8th: The Role of Trade Unions started a little behind schedule. Organisers, speakers and audience members were chasing after each other to ask advice, cash in favours, and update each other—doing all the behind-the- scenes work that kicks campaigns off and keeps them afloat.The meeting was well attended by trade union officials and activists as well as by non-union members.
The meeting was chaired by Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, with her usual blend of humour and passion. Dr Fiona Bloomer and Claire Pierson opened the meeting by giving an overview of the ground-breaking survey “Abortion as a Workplace Issue: A Trade Union Survey North and South of Ireland.” This survey can be found on the websites of the participating unions: Unite, Unison, Mandate, CWU, and GMB.

The survey is broken up into three main parts: Views on abortion—broken down by gender, age, religion, profession, and region; Abortion as a workplace issue—a range of scenarios related to disclosure, advice and support, time off, and sickness pay; and Qualitative responses— discussion groups and personal remarks.

Maggie Ryan, on behalf of the TUCR8A, spoke on the class aspects of access to abortion and how these link directly to trade union struggle, as well as precarious work, low pay, and the difficulties of obtaining leave, particularly for those precariously employed or in feminised professions, such as teaching and nursing. She spoke of the secrecy surrounding women’s health, and the fact that this needs to be addressed for real progress to be made. She held up a TUC publication, Supporting Working Women through the Menopause, and said, to much applause, that she looked
forward to the day the ICTU could produce the same, along with one about abortion.

Emily Waszak brought a new perspective to the table. Speaking on behalf of a new campaign group, Migrant and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice, she pointed out the need for an intersectional approach— an approach that acknowledges
class struggle but also how racial and ethnic discrimination overlap
with it. She succinctly highlighted the fact that the “right to travel” is non-existent for women in direct provision and for the many migrants who do not have the means to prove their identity in order to travel.
A speaker from the British Trades Union Congress joined the panel to add an international flavour. Philipa Harvey of the National Union of Teachers mirrored the journey that twelve women from Ireland make every day to obtain access to abortion
to offer solidarity and speak on the need to be prepared to fight to maintain access once repeal is won.

The respected community and reproductive rights activist Cathleen O’Neill further examined the 8th Amendment as a class issue and argued that it is a further erosion of the lot of working-class women. She emphasised the ground that had been lost for women and community supports during the recession and stressed that these need to be won back.

Drawing the many threads together, Mags O’Brien (ICTU Global Solidarity Committee) closed the meeting by referring to the hypocrisy of the Government and the rhetoric about Ireland’s commitment to human rights while women are still denied access to essential health services.

Calling all young members!

On November 22nd, Unite’s Young Members’ Committee will be holding an open forum in our Dublin office (55/56 Middle Abbey Street) from 5 pm. Items for discussion will include plans for campaigning, as well as how best to can build a strong and fighting union in your workplace.