Irish abroad mobilize to return home for gay marriage vote

Wed May 20, 2015 12:01pm EDT
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By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Thousands of kilometers from home, Dubliner Mark Govern watched on in Sydney as Ireland's referendum on gay marriage dominated discussion. Three weeks ago, he made a big decision.

He cleared his bank account, forked out to take extra annual leave from work and bought a A$1,600 ($1,100) return ticket in the hope of helping Ireland do what no other country in the world has done, approve same-sex marriage in a national vote.

"It's a once in a generational chance," said Govern, a gay man who campaigned to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples before he took a career break to move to Australia last August.

"I felt that if this didn't pass and I could have come home and contributed in some way, I'd spend the next 30 years regretting it."

Govern, 31, is one of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of Irish people returning home to vote, according to Joey Kavanagh of Get The Boat 2 Vote, one of a number of groups encouraging Irish men and women abroad to come back and cast their ballot.

More than 180,000 Irish nationals, equivalent to 8 percent of the 2.2 million who voted at the last election, left the country in the four years to the end of April 2014 as Ireland's economic crisis sparked a wave of emigration.

With the economy recovering, some say Friday's vote could decide whether they eventually return for good.

"It depends what kind of Ireland it is. If we're going to keep voting no to these kind of things, I don't know," said Tara O'Donnell, 25, who has booked a flight back from Brussels and knows at least 30 friends and colleagues who have done the same.   Continued...

A poster supporting the Yes vote is displayed in the Dame street area of Dublin in Ireland May 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton