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Opinion: Will young people vote in this election?

We asked four young people for their opinions.

Laura Byrne Assistant News Editor

SOME PEOPLE SAY young people won’t turn out to vote in the election on 8 February. Anecdotally, they tend not to vote in large numbers in general elections. But the last two referendums – Marriage Equality and the Repeal the 8th vote – showed that young people can become engaged in political discourse. We asked four young people for their opinions on the matter.

Anna, 18, Studying Psychology in UCD

Unfortunately, I won’t be voting in this election because I wasn’t registered in time. I don’t feel like there’s much awareness raised about registering and it’s quite a lengthy process.

I only found out about it just a few days away from the registration deadline and with college and work, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to complete the process.

I feel like everyone should be automatically added to the register when they turn 18. It should be an opt-out process rather than opting in.

We should be taught about it more and there should be more help for first-time voters with registering and the whole voting process.

Liam, 20, Politics and Sociology Student, NUI Maynooth

I believe that most politicians genuinely want to do their best for their constituents and their country, however, it has become increasingly clear to me that a lot of politicians are out of touch and have been ineffective.

I believe a lot of this is because we as citizens are not doing our job which is to hold them accountable.

I for one feel so strongly about this election as I know what’s at stake. With regards to climate change, we have less than ten years before there is no going back and so we need a government that is going to act.

Student fees are the highest in Europe, we have to take out loans, work excessive hours just to get by, but yet we get nothing back as services on campuses from health centres, councillors and even just study spaces are drying up.

Rents are skyrocketing leaving many of us unsure about, not only will we ever own a home, but where am I going to sleep tonight?

Many of us do not have any form of healthcare and the possibility of sickness could bankrupt us and our families.

Many of us are outraged by the immigration policies of Donald Trump, locking up asylum-seeking kids, but yet we do that right here in Ireland in fact many students who live in Direct Provision face the constant threat that they could be kicked out of the country that they love and want to contribute to.

Sometimes we as a nation are too humble to say ‘we deserve better’, but we do. I registered to vote on my birthday and the first vote I cast was to repeal the 8th amendment.

We as a nation are capable of great change, we did it with marriage equality too, changing a conservative catholic country into a modern democracy that led the world.

However, when it comes to our national politics that’s not the case, while the rest of the world battles it out with radical policies that could transform their countries, we are sitting on the sidelines wondering which of our two boring centrist parties will govern us into the brink of extinction.

It doesn’t need to be this way we need to do as we did with repeal and marriage equality and sit down with our families who may have always voted one way, have those tough conversations, and then wake up on 8 February go to the polls together and say loud and clear ‘we deserve better’.

Lauryn, Trinity student

The reason I will be voting in this election is because of the fact that currently, in Ireland, an Irish citizen who has lived outside of the State for more than the last 3 of 5 years, cannot access EU fees like other Irish and EU citizens who have been residing in the State.

It’s worth mentioning that no party running in this election has included this issue in any of their policies, however, the parties which have shown that they are willing to make changes towards the funding of higher education seem to me to be the most likely to bring about change in this area.

I am an Irish and EU Citizen, who holds a passport and can vote in both domestic and European elections – however, for whatever reason, I am still not able to be granted EU Fee Status due to the regulations around the Free Fees Initiative in Ireland.

While I think it is shameful that after Brexit Ireland will have the highest university fees in the EU, what is even more shameful to me is that the Irish government imposes extraordinarily high fees on Irish citizens who have been living out of the State for a period of their life.

Currently, I am studying law and am required to pay 20,000 euro per year to attend the university. It is my hope that during this election, something will change in that the people of Ireland have the sense to elect a party into the Dáil which will prioritise the future of the State through funding higher education.

Any party with a policy for creating funding for higher education is why I am voting in this election because to me, students are not commodities and we cannot and should not be expected to fund universities – that is not our responsibility.

Andrea, 19, studying Engineering in UCD

My views on voting are that everybody should do it, it’s a right that we fought for as women and your vote should not be wasted.

However, I do think there are flaws in the system. I was registered to vote over a year ago at this point, but even still now when I chance the register my name doesn’t appear.

I think the way registering can be difficult and that greatly adds to the political apathy we experience with young people.

I am stuck between voting for the parties I most agree with (Labour and Greens) or using my vote tactically to vote for Sinn Fein, as I mostly do not agree with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael policies as a whole.

The things I most strongly consider before casting my vote would be their stances on animal agriculture, the environment and homelessness epidemic we are experiencing at the moment.

Naoise Crowley, UCC Students’ Union VP Welfare

How often have you heard someone in your life say that they “don’t care about politics” and that they struggle to see the point in voting?

Such a viewpoint is understandable, given the general disillusionment with politicians and their ability to deliver on promises in an era of ‘post-truth politics’.

In a political era centred around emotive language as opposed to logical and coherent analysis of the diverse problems we face as a society, this issue has become increasingly prevalent.

However, while such ‘rational ignorance’ is understandable, it is ultimately a counter-productive self-fulfilling prophecy. When individuals decide to take such a stance on voting and politics, on a collective level, it allows candidates who do not represent the general interest and wellbeing of the population to be elected to office.

In layman’s terms, if everybody unhappy with the way society is decided not to vote, then by nature, nothing would ever change.

Regardless of your views or political persuasion, politicians’ actions will have an effect on your life (local amenities, lack of funding for mental health services, environmental regulation and policies that end with you paying 40% of your income on rent to name but a few).

Under such a pretext, we may keep in mind the saying ‘Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you’.

A government is, in its simplest form those we choose to represent us-nothing more and nothing less. As a citizen of Éire, you have a say in shaping that government. You have one vote, as does the Taoiseach of this country.

We can, on a collective level effect change in the society we live in. However, if we all decide not to vote, collectively, then nothing will ever change.

 

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About the author:

Laura Byrne  / Assistant News Editor

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