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The youth vote: 'My classmates are more interested in Netflix and Instagram than in politics'

The majority of young people aren’t interested in politics but this is a symptom of a corrupt system, writes Owen Cuskelly.

Owen Cuskelly

ADOLESCENCE IS A time of excitement and new beginnings. Having just finished my mocks, one could say I am becoming accustomed to the lifestyle of a workaholic adult: fulfilling assignment deadlines, committing to study timetables, and indulging in leisure time where possible.

If only I could retreat back into the fortress of solitude that is my bedroom, wistfully dreaming of having meals cooked by Mum for all eternity. But, sadly, that is not reality.

Why is it then that when asked about my future aspirations I am perpetually met with a placid reception of mild disinterest? “Politics?” people retort. “Why would you wanna do that?”

Adults and young people alike will question my sanity as to why I would even humour the thought of pursuing an education or career in the area. I think, why wouldn’t I?

People my age have little interest in politics

Too often I come in contact with fellow classmates or youths who are more knowledgeable about the upcoming season of Stranger Things on Netflix, or the manipulation of their Instagram feeds, than they are about who governs their country.

They are unable to name someone as prolific as the Minister for Social Protection or even recognise woolly-haired Mick Wallace, a formidable figure if ever there was one. This is disheartening, though understandable.

Of course people my age have little to no interest in the field of politics. How could they when all they’ve been led to believe on the subject is that it’s a job filled with old cronies that ultimately boils down to power grabbing?

Encouraging young people to engage

Shouldn’t we be encouraging our young people to engage with the political system? We’re told all too often that they are the catalyst of change for the future.

Young people must be aware of the issues, participate in the system by voting or protesting, or just listening to those around them. They must be confident in their opinions and their ability to shape their own country.

How can we expect to tackle seismic issues such as the health and education systems, the housing crisis and the potentially dangerous rise in populism when young minds are not fulfilling their capabilities?

Who’ll continue the franchise? 

With the recent outbreaks of worry concerning the Taoiseach’s imminent departure, Fine Gael’s party leadership has been tossed into an anticipated flurry of “Who’ll continue the franchise?”

Will Varadk-ough up the courage to win or will Simon Coven-iently sneak past his competitor? One thing is guaranteed – it’ll be the same no matter who wins the beauty pageant. Which is exactly what is wrong with our fractured system.

The disconnect between party and people is intensifying with each day. A general election is on the horizon and we, the youth, need to be agents for change and stand up for what is right.

Typical millennial

Some might peg me as a young, sensitive, left-wing “keyboard warrior,” aimlessly arguing against any “establishment” policy put forth by Fine Gael and/ or Fianna Fáil. Typical of my ignorant millennial generation and all that.

I don’t object. I share left-leaning publications and ideals on my social media platforms. My Facebook page is profusely cascaded with articles regarding Irish, European and American political affairs and my brief personal insights about them.

I graciously admit that by no means does that make me editor-in-chief of a quasi-Communist, modern day Pravda however. But online badgering is not the sole weapon in my arsenal of political engagement methodologies.

How to be politically active

I am a proud contributor to my local branch of the Social Democrats. This allows me to interact with others from my constituency and to familiarise myself with the issues faced by those in Longford-Westmeath.

Canvassing. Internal party policy refinements. Dáil queries put directly to the Ministers in charge. These are but a few of the invaluable assets placed at my disposal that I feel countless others my age should be utilising in order to take control of their own democracy.

Endless alternatives open to young people to engage

Even if one does not want to affiliate themselves with a party there are endless alternatives available for those who want to at least remain in the loop. Listen to the news, whether it be from RTÉ or CNN. Read the news on TheJournal.ie.

Contact your local TDs concerning local and national issues. You can even contact the majority of them on Facebook. Familiarise yourself with parties’ policy principles, not just their election manifestos.

Make those in power accountable. They work for us 365 days a year, not just the month before an election. Something as simple as discussing politics with family members of differing points of view, is pivotal in developing respect for dissenting viewpoints, and can expand your perspectives on a topic.

Most importantly, when eligible, please register to vote. Dear God (Don’t cringe fellow secularists) you have no authority to complain about disservice to your needs if you haven’t serviced your own country by voting.

I am ecstatic to soon have the opportunity to fully engage in the system with my vote. You should be too.

Owen Cuskelly is a Leaving Certificate student and political activist, online and off.

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Owen Cuskelly

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