Last month saw an important day arise for the people of Ireland. Previously, it was almost impossible for women in Ireland to have an abortion under the Eighth Amendment, of the Irish Constitution, if not for the extreme circumstance of risk of the mother’s life. On the 25 May 2018, the Republic of Ireland held a referendum to either keep or repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Irish students completing a degree in the UK were not eligible for the postal vote so the only way they could vote in the referendum was by travelling home and visiting their local polling station. This saw the National Union of Students and the Union of Students in Ireland work together to ensure that students had the opportunity to have their say in the referendum.
“NUS supports the right to choose. This right is currently denied to pregnant people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, who travel in their thousands to access abortion in the UK every year.” More information on the NUS website.
NUS did what they could in supporting students travelling back to Ireland by setting aside a bursary for students’ unions around the UK to apply to. NUS promised to match the contribution unions made to their students travel fees.
Bucks New University has a large population of Irish students. Some of these students contacted Bucks Students’ Union to find out more about the travel bursary. Knowing that NUS would financially support us after accepting our application, we set some money aside from the Sabbatical Campaign budget for the Home to V8te campaign (a campaign that saw thousands of Irish citizen’s fly in from around the world to vote). Our Irish students applied with proof of their travel receipts and registration information and we were so excited to be able to financially support ten students to travel home to vote. The staff at Bucks Students’ Union were proud to support our members in their right to vote and actively engage in current politics.
On 26 March 2018 the highly anticipated result was revealed. 66.4% of voters had ticked YES to repeal the Eighth Amendment, changing abortion laws for the Republic of Ireland.
Jade Carter, a nursing student at Bucks, was one of the students we supported to travel home to vote and she said: “I just wanted to thank you so much for helping us all get home to vote! I've never been more proud of our little Uni and it just goes to show what we're capable of when we put our minds together! “Repeal the 8th" was such an emotional campaign for me to be a part of and to have the privilege to be chosen to receive funds and fly home genuinely brought me to tears. I was voting to change history. To give women the autonomy over our bodies - and we did it! Without the help of the Union I would have watched from afar in awe of our little country. However, being able to actually BE there for the whole process was something I'll never forget! Thanks so much to you and everyone who helped make our flights possible!”