A letter to Ireland, May 2018

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It has been inspiring and difficult and exciting and infuriating, and sometimes overwhelming, to be watching the campaign to repeal the 8th and the referendum campaign unfold from overseas. For the other ballots I have missed in the last four years, I have felt a low-key frustration at not having a postal vote. However something in the nature of this campaign has, despite my unwavering investment in the future of Irish society, made me feel different about the nature of citizenship and its burdens, responsibilities, as well as its rewards.

Like never before in my lifetime, I'm seeing people from my generation active in civil society, knocking on the door of politics, effecting change, and actually believing in the power of democracy. While wanting so much to be part of that by exercising my vote, the energy, the solidarity, and the heartbreaking debate in this campaign make me feel the distance more keenly. Closely as I follow it all, I'm not there. I'm not there to live the status quo (anymore) nor to live with the result (yet). I'm not there to wear the cool black Repeal Project jumpers, nor to volunteer with one of the canvas groups under Together for Yes in every corner of the country. I'm not there to unavoidably see posters and propaganda from the no-vote campaign on a daily basis. I'm not there to share the delicate, difficult conversations with the women and the men in my life in Ireland. I'm not there to be involved, though I finally see what it means to believe in democracy and believe in the power of civil society to direct and effect change.

If you yourself haven't thought about your own role in this referendum, now is the time. It can be an ugly campaign and I can understand how many people - especially those who cannot become pregnant - might try to avoid engaging with it, but every voter has an equal role. We have both opportunity and responsibility. We might think this is a "women's issue" but anyone's vote is equal to hers. We might look to an organisation or church for direction, but we can also find our own moral compass with a little information and empathy. We might think that the 8th amendment prevented abortion for Irish women, but it didn't, it has just added exponential hardship and anguish to the pain and distress of seeking a termination, whatever the circumstance. We might not understand the breadth of various and complex reasons that lead to the need for termination, but we can find stories whispered by women all around us on In Her Shoes - Women Of The Eighth.

Please make sure you are registered to vote on www.checktheregister.ie, it just takes a minute. The deadline to register is Tuesday 8th May.

Watching the instagram stories of those involved in the campaign, listening to podcasts and current affairs radio broadcasts, and following facebook pages such as those linked above make me feel really grateful to the people working so hard to bring Ireland together for Yes. However they are no more or less important than each and every individual who can and, more importantly, WILL vote on the 25th May. I'm cheering for you all, Ireland!