Student representatives are optimistic a high proportion of students will participate in the upcoming general election, which the Union of Students in Ireland is keen to remind voters will be the government responsible for deciding the future of tuition fees and other university issues.
The USI, along with various Students’ Unions across the country, distributed voter registration forms and provide assistance during the process for students in the run up to the supplementary register deadline of February 8th.
UCC Students’ Union worked throughout the weeks prior to the deadline, distributing supplemental registration forms and providing Gardaí presence on campus to witness signatures. When asked of the progress made by the union over this time, SU President Keith O’ Brien stated; “I’m happy with the number of students registered, it’s very hard to put a figure on the numbers, the Gardaí Síochána reckon we registered physically through them at least around 600 students. We printed over 5,000 forms, the majority of which have been shifted, so we hope students had them in.”
The election will be held on Friday 25th of February, the first time in recent history the vote has taken place on that day of the week. It is hoped that this will be beneficial to student turnout, considering that many students living in student accommodation during term time return to their local constituencies on Friday.
It is estimated that 9,000 students in UCC live away from home, and this is a contingent who would have found further difficulties were the election to take place on a more traditional Thursday vote.
Gary Redmond, President of the Union of Students in Ireland was optimistic that the change of day would help, but believes it is still not the ideal scenario; “This will give many more students the opportunity to vote that may not have had it otherwise.
“Now, we really should be getting into a situation where voting takes place on a Saturday as is common across the rest of Europe. Not only does it make it easier for students or people who work outside their constituency, it also means you don’t have to close things like schools.”
Comment was sought by the Express last week from at least one candidate from every party contesting in the Cork South Central area as to the importance of the election for students, and vice versa. Deirdre Clune, T.D. and a member of Fine Gael responded, stating; “I would encourage as many students and young people as possible to vote on the 25th.
“The issues that are at the heart of this election are issues that will come to dominate the Ireland of the next decade, a decade in which the students of today will be finishing in college, looking for jobs, paying tax, buying homes and maybe even starting families.”
She added, “The decisions taken by the next government will have a major impact on what is a crucial time in their lives”. Ms. Clune also advocated student participation outside of voting, by engaging in public debates and forum boards on political issues.
This year students will not only vote on February 25th, as candidates from universities throughout Ireland are announcing their intention to contest this election. UCC will see at least one candidate to this year’s vote, Green Party’s Malachy Harty, who is currently studying International Development and Food Policy, will be running in the Cork East constituency.
When asked on student participation in the election, Mr. Harty said: “The first thing I’d do is encourage everyone to vote. I don’t think anyone who does not vote has a right to give out about the government… And then yes, of course, it’s not difficult to register yourself to vote or if you’re involved in a political party to run as a candidate.”