‘We’re striking for Repeal in London in solidarity with our sisters in Ireland’

Emigrants need to organise, get involved, and be as loud as we would be at home

Claire McGowran: ‘I think of the women who make the journey to England for an abortion, every time I travel from Dublin to Stansted.’

Claire McGowran: ‘I think of the women who make the journey to England for an abortion, every time I travel from Dublin to Stansted.’

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I’ve been living in England with my husband for the last five years. I’m not quite sure yet if we’re going to stay here for the long haul, or return to Ireland when we have kids - it’s a question that gets debated among my Irish friends and I at least once a week.

But I know I’m far more likely to return to an Ireland where women are trusted to make tough decisions for themselves and their families. Because I’m Irish, because most of the people I love live in Ireland and because I do imagine I’ll end up back there one day, what happens there is important to me.

It’s important to me that Irish voices are heard from over here too.

It’s why I got the boat to vote (well, I got the plane if truth be told) for marriage equality. It’s why I’ve joined the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign. It’s why I think of the women who make the journey to England for an abortion, every time I travel from Dublin to Stansted.

And it’s why on International Women’s Day on Wednesday, I’ll be taking time out to strike in solidarity with our sisters in Ireland. I’ll join my cohorts at the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign outside the Irish Embassy here in London, chanting loud and making our voices heard.

When you live away from home, you already feel left out of the conversation. This comes from the Government (Irish emigrants lose their vote 18 months after leaving) and it comes from wider society too (“sure what would you care, you don’t even live here”). It also comes from feeling powerless being so far from home, even when you’re only 90 minutes away. Which is why we emigrants need to organise, get involved, and be as loud as we would be at home.

This International Women’s Day I’ll be sending a postcard to Enda Kenny as part of Post4Repeal, I’ll be making a donation to the Bus4Repeal, I’ll be wearing my Repeal jumper with pride, and I’ll be using every platform I can, and telling everybody who’ll listen, about why I am calling for the repeal of the eight amendment to the Irish constitution, which effectively bans abortion in Ireland.

Because wanting to cling on to Irishness is about so much more than asking your dad to send you some Tayto, and heading to the Auld Shillelagh (the best Irish pub in London, FYI) to watch a match. It’s about speaking up for each other too.

And while I might not live in Ireland, and I might not ever choose to access an abortion, I still feel a need to speak out for women and girls in Ireland who don’t feel they can speak out for themselves. Women in poverty, women in conservative families, refugees, rape victims, victims of violence, teenagers, and women who simply don’t want to be pregnant, and don’t know where to turn.

I hope abortion providers here in Britain continue to be the open arms to Ireland’s turned back for women in crisis pregnancies for as long as they need it. But that is simply a shoddy fix for a problem that is not going away. And in the meantime, women, women like me, who were either born into, or have fallen into, situations that mean they don’t have the means to travel, will be left in crisis.

We might have left Ireland, we might live in a country where our bodily autonomy is respected and our human rights are afforded, but we haven’t forgotten those women at home. And that’s why, this International Women’s Day, they’ll be at the forefront of our minds, and at the root of our cries here in London.

Let’s hope the Irish Ambassador is in residence and listening.

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