Comment: As Young people Across NI Gear Up To Vote Here’s What They Have To Say

young people voting

Voting for The NI Assembly election takes place tomorrow from 07:00 to elect 90 members of the legislative assembly (MLA’s), including filling the place of First Minister. 

Young people can vote from the age of 18, allowing the space for young people to have their voices heard and make changes to the things that matter to them. 

Despite this, a study by Liverpool University revealed that ⅔ of young people did not vote in the Westminster election which took place in June 2021. 

The decisions that are made now in the NI Assembly election will impact their future- environmental issues, decisions regarding the health service, education, university fees, the cost of living, job opportunities and more.

According to reports and polls currently Sinn Fein are in the lead, followed by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who have been the dominant Stormont party for the last 15 years. 

The other parties in the run up include Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP), People Before Profit, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and Green Party. 

But what does this actually matter to our young people? Ashley said she simply “doesn’t care” and added: “What’s the point of voting, it’s the same old same old all the time. I can’t be bothered with it all.”

In the event that Sinn Fein win, it would be the first time in history a Nationalist would lead in Northern Ireland. 

Although Sinn Fein have played down aspirations for a United Ireland and are focusing on the cost of living crisis, health care waiting lists and rebuilding the economy, for some young people of Northern Ireland who have grown up in Integrated schools and impacted by the stories from their parents a potential United Ireland and return to violence is a concern.

David said he didn’t think it mattered who would get in: “What’s the difference, none of them care about us. They couldn’t care less about people and why should we care about them?”

Many young people have differing opinions about what the future holds for Northern Ireland and the importance of the election.

However, one thing they did all agree on is that they wanted elected representatives who care about the people of Northern Ireland as a whole and are actively trying to make changes but some are less informed and don’t know enough about the election to give them the confidence to vote.

Jordan Arthur said: I want the status quo to be broken and to have elected representatives who can actually deliver change for ordinary working class people who are struggling due to the cost of living rise. 

“As a young person I want to end sectarian politics which serves no purpose and unites no one and I want to see the economy grow so one day I can afford a home and have a decent career.” 

Young people have grown up in a recovering Northern Ireland and want an elected party who stick to their word and want to bring change so the people of Northern Ireland can continue to live peacefully in years to come.

Oisin Lavery added:  “We’re in a cost of living crisis at the moment and for the foreseeable future. Clearly something has to change and leading parties like the DUP and Sinn Fein have made it clear from their actions over the past few years that they will not be the ones to make the required changes. 

“They can make all the plans they want but if they don’t follow through on those plans then it’s a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of a vote..”

Anna Ramzy said: “A lot of young people feel like their voice doesn’t matter in the Northern Ireland elections as the result is always the same. The majority don’t care about the same things the older generation do. 

“We want to move on from the past and have a government that’s working on today’s issues. Issues such as mental health and poverty for example are getting worse, particularly after Covid 19 and the lockdown. I have hope that this will change in the future, maybe this election will be the start of that.

There’s a concern around whether or not our young people will come out to vote, especially when you hear what Alex had to say: “I didn’t know the election was happening or who the candidates were. I have had a few brochures in the post but I get so many leaflets in the post, I didn’t pay attention to them.”