Enda Kenny’s decision to host a Friday general election was welcomed by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) and Union of Students’ following their lobbying.
The council stressed the importance of a Friday or weekend election, in order to allow students to return home to vote.
Ian Power, President of the NYCI said a weekday election would have “undermined” the work done to politically engage students in the run-up to the marriage equality referendum and would have resulted in decreased youth turnout.
“For the 2011 general election, the youth voter turnout was 62 per cent, up 12 per cent on 2002 levels. If we want to maintain and enhance youth turnout, we need to support it through Friday or weekend elections,” he said. The Friday February 26th election date, was announced by Enda Kenny via Twitter last Wednesday. He then travelled to Arás an Uachtaráin, where President Higgins signed a proclamation formally dissolving the Dáil.
With just three weeks until polling day, national campaigns encouraging youth voter registration have been launched by the NYCI and the USI. Members of the USI travelled to various colleges around the country last week in a bid to register thousands of students before the February 9th deadline, with hundreds of students attending a registration drive held in DIT last Thursday.
Gardaí were present to sign and stamp applications at the Kevin, Aungier and Bolton street campuses. DCU students could register in the Students’ Union. According to NYCI figures, there are 460,000 people aged between 18 and 25 in Ireland. The USI claims to have registered 80,000 students in the past two years, particularly in the run up to the same sex marriage referendum.
While no particular party has been pinpointed for the youth vote, the NYCI sees employment as the most important issue concerning students, and says a reduction in zero hour contracts could win over young voters. The USI meanwhile pinpoints education as the most important student issue. “Students will vote for parties who prioritise education by increasing student support and grants, and who reduce the registration fee,” O’Donoghue said.