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Referendum an example of youth vote engagement and should continue - Reilly

27 May, 2015

Speaking after the historic vote on the marriage referendum at the weekend, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has said that the huge politicisation of young people must be recognised and now that it has taken root, must be encouraged lest this opportunity to engage young voters be lost.

Senator Reilly said:

“There are many reasons for Irish people to be joyful in the aftermath of the Marriage Equality Referendum, not least because of the significance of the result itself which was a great signifier of the progressiveness of our society.

“Commendation must go to the vast number of young people who played their part in this campaign, from canvassing for the referendum to voting on the day. The engagement and diligence of young people over the last number of weeks gives great hope for Ireland’s future.

“Many of the young people who registered to vote in the last week’s referendum had never voted before, the old perception of one vote won’t change anything was cast aside, young people realised the importance of their vote and cast them in their hundreds of thousands for an issue they truly believed in.

“In the final weeks before the referendum, I was keenly aware that there were 478 additions to the supplementary register of electors in Cavan and 453 in Monaghan. While not all of these were young voters, the registration efforts made by students unions and youth organisations in the last year can account for the large swells in those on the electoral register.

“While it is true that young people are more inclined to participate in informal political processes such as activism, protests, and campaigns, the marriage equality referendum unified this approach with engagement in formal political participation.

“It must be said that one of the successes of the referendum was its ability to bring young people closer to formal politics than ever before in Ireland.

“The feel good factor that this referendum brought to the nation was evidence of the positive contribution that young people can make to politics in Ireland.

“It is now critical that young people, cognisant of the affect their vote can have and the changes that do come when people vote, continue the process of voting in all elections. Young people took ownership of the political process and they must continue to do so.

“Recognising that every decision made at local, national and international level affects them, they must continue to exercise their vote so that the parties and people that best represent their interests are elected.” 

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