Youth vote no longer the unheard minority and TDs would do well to listen

It seems as though a genuine breakthrough may have been achieved in making 18-34-year olds aware of the importance of voting come election time, writes Adam Hallessey.

Youth vote no longer the unheard minority and TDs would do well to listen

As issues of housing and health increasingly dominate our lives, we have come to the realisation that the ballot box is the most effective vehicle of change there has ever been.

The next step that arises, however, is to show young people the equal significance of consistent engagement with the political process during the five years that follow, and that the job of a citizen entails more than stopping by on election day.

The weeks prior to February 8 were nothing but encouraging; being greeted several mornings by queues of students registering to vote curving around the UCC campus was a sight to behold.

On nights out, you couldn’t help but smirk as the discussion sporadically transitioned from Man Utd’s unfortunate demise to 2020 voting intentions. Additionally, the online debate which took place was constructive and largely factual, revolving around issues of actual substance rejecting the vacuous nature of party obsessions and cults of personality.

However, there is something deeply captivating and enthralling about general elections; the polls, the in-fighting, the rivalry, the capacity for it all to change in a split second – it makes the leaders debates seem more like a Love Island recoupling than a serious political discussion. If politics is a sport, election time is the Superbowl, the World Cup final or All-Ireland Sunday.

It’s easy to support a team in the final, it’s tougher to keep up with the league week in, week out and dipping in and out of politics when elections are taking place does everyone a disservice.

Young people’s voting decisions should be made on the basis of five years of knowledge not three weeks of spin, and democratic vigilance makes parties aware we have no appetite for and are less susceptible to electorally-motivated auction politics.

Politicians trade in the currency of votes and prioritise voting blocs with records of remaining constantly informed on all political and economic issues, particularly demographics mobilised behind common agendas.

When Fianna Fáil attempted to strip medical cards from pensioners in 2008 they were met by the ferocity of the grey vote’s mass protest, and eventually rescinded the proposal.

If recently-elected politicians aren't made aware of our intentions to hold them to account on youth issues ranging from the accessibility of affordable accommodation and the creation of positive conditions for entrance level employment to income inequality and climate change, then the cycle of underrepresentation will continue and it will be our fault.

Historically, our TDs haven’t respected youth matters because we have voted disproportionately less than our parents and grandparents.

Positively, it seems this trend may be starting to buck and, as such, we can expect our views to be given a hearing. But it won’t be until we spend the entirety of a government’s lifetime remaining as fervently involved as we have been in the past few weeks that our issues will finally be tangibly acted upon with the same urgency as pension pay and medical cards.

And that will be a good day for the future of Irish democracy.

Adam Hallessey is the co-founder of The Progressive Brief and is studying at University College Cork. See www.progressivebrief.com or follow @progressbrief on Twitter.

Youth vote no longer the unheard minority and TDs would do well to listen

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