‘Young Kilkenny voters must be encouraged to have their say’ – Cllr Noonan
A SIGNIFICANT number of young people in Kilkenny who are eligible to vote in the forthcoming local and European elections are not registered to exercise their democratic rights, a local councillor has claimed.
Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan has called on the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton to kick-start “a national public awareness campaign” to encourage and make it easier for people to register to vote.
Cllr Noonan, who is the Green Party spokesperson for Local Government, Rural and Community Affairs, said there needs to be ongoing awareness of the importance of taking part in the democratic process, particularly among young people, vulnerable groups and minorities.
“It has become clear that over recent weeks of campaigning, that many young people who have turned 18 recently, people from both EU and non EU states are not registered to vote and that many are unaware of their rights to vote in both local and EU elections in Ireland,” said Cllr Noonan.
Cllr Noonan said that, in the interest of democratic participation, the State should design campaigns to both highlight the right to vote, the importance of voting and how local government and the European Parliament affects the everyday lives of everyone.
He added: “It is disappointing that following a surge in voter registration for both the same sex marriage and Repeal the 8th referendums, that we do not capitalise on that enthusiasm to encourage greater participation in elections. Both the European Parliament and Local Elections take place at a critical time in global and national politics.
“It is vital that young people are encouraged to take part, to engage with candidates on the issues, particularly in light of the thousands of young people who took part in the recent school climate strike.”
Cllr Noonan said the voting age could have been reduced to 16 for the upcoming local and European elections without a referendum, enabling the school climate strikers to vote.
He added: “A Sinn Fein bill brought before the Seanad last year could have extended voting rights to 126,000 16 and 17 year olds. The Green Party supports this and it is supported by the National Youth Council of Ireland. Unfortunately this legislation will not be in place for the elections on May 24 and it probably suits the main government parties as it could potentially have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the elections all across the State. Yet Austria has had such policy in place for a decade and other EU member states such as Estonia are implementing the same policy.”
Cllr Noonan said it is not too late to commence a national media campaign and to resource local authorities to roll out campaigns and voter registration events.
“At a time when trust in politics is at an all time low, it is vital as a State, that we encourage as many people as possible to take part in all elections. Our elected councils are not currently reflective of the diversity in or age profile of our society. This can be changed but the State must lead in effecting that change,” Cllr Noonan (pictured below) added.