AN IRISHMAN in London has set up a new initiative to help people cover the costs of going home to vote in the same-sex marriage referendum on May 22.
Lorcán Ó Catháin, a 23-year-old Athlone native who is a master’s student at the London School of Economics, set up the Change Ireland project this month - in a bid to help those who want to fly back to Ireland to use their vote but cannot afford to.
“The idea came from a few places,” he explains. “From looking on social media there was a huge desire amongst Irish people abroad to have their voices heard on this referendum but couldn't do so due to Ireland's outdated postal vote regulations and also financial barriers preventing them from making the trip home.”
With Change Ireland Mr Ó Catháin aims to cover 50 per cent of the travel expenses of getting back to Ireland for successful applicants. So far he has had people from all over Britain, and as far away as Australia and Thailand, apply for funding.
Through the initiative an initial 25 per cent of the travel costs will be awarded to the voter by Change Ireland when they prove they are on the electoral register and have booked their route home.
A further 25 per cent will be provided when the project receives a a picture of the voter taken outside of the polling station on referendum day.
Change Ireland is funded through the generosity of strangers, the founder explains.
“All the money we have raised so far - just over £300 in three days - has come from small donations from individuals, many of whom mightn't be able to make it home to vote but still want to help in some way,” Mr Ó Catháin confirmed.
Anyone who is legally eligible to vote can apply for Change Ireland funding to try and get home for the referendum on May 22.
Under Irish law, anyone who was previously registered to vote in Ireland stays on the register for 18 months after they leave the country. Although to use their vote they must write a letter to their local council, in their home county, stating their intention to return to Ireland within the 18-month timeframe.
“Many of my best friends are gay and so I was always determined to go home to vote and I don't believe lacking the financial means should stop other people from casting their vote either,” Mr Ó Catháin added.
To apply or donate to Change Ireland visit changeireland.squarespace.com.