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We cannot vote. We need you to stand in our place.

As an emigrant, I’m urging people to go to the polls on 22 May. Every single vote matters.

Dennis Collins

IT’S BEEN ALMOST seven years since we heard that we were facing into a bit of an economic problem in Ireland. In those seven years, many thousands have emigrated, and a few thousand of us have returned. Yet, there are still more than a handful of us abroad, scattered as close to home as the UK and the rest of the EU, or on the other side of the planet itself.

Not unexpectedly, talk of allowing at least the most recent emigrants the right to vote from abroad is a topic that has never been far from the headlines these past seven years. It’s quite a divisive topic, with both its own merits and shortcomings. However, I am not about to set out to convince anyone that recent emigrants should have the right to vote. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I’m not fully convinced that it’s something that should go ahead, even though I’m a recent emigrant myself.

My primary aim is to get people back in Ireland voting this 22 May; not just for their own sake, but also for the sake of their friends and family living abroad.

This will have a huge effect on me

This upcoming referendum on marriage equality is one of the most important decisions that will ever affect me and a huge number of other Irish people. Right now, if I were living in the country where I was born, the country that I love, I could not get married. Our laws state that I’m not good enough for that, that there is something wrong with me, with my love and the family I hope to have one day.

In less than one month’s time, Ireland can change that. The people of Ireland get to choose to extend or deny equality to their fellow citizens, to their family and to their friends. In a country that has changed unrecognisably in my 28 years, and even less than that, I’m delighted to see poll after poll predicting a positive outcome, though the battle has not been won yet. Every vote counts. Every vote matters. Each and every vote makes a bigger and stronger statement to the world that all of Ireland’s children are good enough.

On 22 May, when they are standing in the polling booth, almost 2,000km away in sunny Cork, I want my mam, my dad, my brothers, the rest of my family and my friends to think of me and what it means to me. I want the friends and families of all LGBT emigrants to think the same about their loved ones abroad. Sadly, there are also many Irish LGBT people who emigrated because they felt pushed out of a very different Ireland not too long ago. Quite a few of them may not be “out” to their family, and can feel the need to live a double-life abroad. By the simple stroke of a pencil, our friends and families back home can make a change that means everything to us, that shows we’re accepted by Ireland for who we are.

Most of us living abroad want to return to Ireland one day

We cannot vote. We need you to stand in our place. If you are not feeling motivated to go and vote for your own sake, please get out there and do it for ours. Do it for your son, daughter, sister, brother, cousin, friend, nephew, niece. Do it for them, as well as for the LGBT emigrants that you don’t know. I’m only one of very many who needs your help on polling day.

A large number of us, probably most of us, want to return to live in Ireland one day, whether that is sooner or later. To steal that warm, inspiring line from the otherwise very assertive Proclamation of Independence, we want to return to an Ireland that is known the world over for “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”. Please, stand in our place. Stand in for your friends and family who cannot do it for themselves, and put that ‘X’ in the box for us, for the children growing up in Ireland and for the children yet to be born.

Dennis Collins is originally from West Cork. He is a primary school teacher in Stockholm, teaching 4th and 5th class. Twitter: @DennisDonncha

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