Around the world, young people don’t really have the best reputation for turning out to vote. Elections and referendums are vital opportunities for a population to voice their approval of, or disagreement with, what’s going on in a country. While Ireland’ overall turnout figures are pretty darn good in an international context, it’s been a more difficult battle to get younger generations to have their say on such important issues. That said, it’s a situation that’s very gradually improving.
If you’re over 18 and are a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, you’re eligible to vote in any referendums and elections that take place here. However, figures released by the National Youth Council of Ireland earlier this year showed that 30% of 18-25 year-olds aren’t even registered to vote. Worse still, when you look at the 18-21 age group, the figure jumps up to 43%- that’s nearly half of potential voters under 21 who have absolutely no say in how their country is governed.
As part of National Voter Registration Day, SpunOut.ie, in conjunction with the Union of Students in Ireland, are launching a campaign to get as many young people registered to vote in next year’s referendums as possible ahead of the November 25th deadline. We’ll talk you through all the details on the registration form, and we’ll even send it off for you when you’re finished, as well as providing you with helpful voting info ahead of polling days. If you’d like to learn more about the campaign, just click here and get registering!
Ever heard of the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps? Every year, many young Irish people between the ages of 10 and 16 join the ranks of the voluntary organisation as Cadets.
These Cadets become actively involved in the community helping vulnerable groups like the elderly and people with disabilities, but they're also trained in basic like saving skills including First Aid, CPR and Home Nursing.
Having those skills can make a huge difference to their own lives too. Just ask 16-year-old Ballinrobe girl Eimear Morrin. She used them to save her mother's life.
Eimear was at home and came downstairs to discover her mother lying unconscious in the kitchen. She'd had a brain aneurysm and wasn't in a good way but, thanks to her daughter's quick thinking, she survived.
"I knew straight away to open her airways and checked her pulse and we were able to perform CPR, which I had learned through the training", she explains. "Never underestimate the value of getting the Order of Malta."
Eimear is just one of the many Cadets who've gained invaluable skills through the Order of Malta training and she's now become something of a mascot for their organisation. Her story has been entered into the Better Together video awards in the hopes of raising awareness about what the organisation does and encouraging more young people to follow in her footsteps.
You can vote for her story here.
For more information on The Order of Malta be sure to check out their official website.
If you’ve got an interest in highlighting young people’s mental health-related issues through film, you’ve got exactly three months to perfect your masterpiece for the CAST 2014/5 Film Festival.
Submissions for completed projects close on January 15, 2015, so now’s the perfect time to encourage your mates from school, college or the youth club to get filming! According to the organisers, the festival is a “call to action” for youth groups, and they want to get schools and youth organisations to produce films that “shed light on a social issue”, and offer potential solutions to the issue mentioned.
The application criteria are pretty broad, which means that your film can be a documentary, a work of fiction, or a “visually creative film” as you see fit. It should look to highlight relevant resources available in your local area, and it must:
The event itself is great fun, and it’s gone from strength to strength in recent years. Last year’s festival showcased 15 short films, and was attended by the now Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. Tickets are expected to be around €18, and that includes a two-course meal along with a souvenir red carpet photo. If you fancy yourself to be an aspiring Steven Spielberg with a great idea to publicise, get entering by clicking here.
Comhairle na nÓg have put together this brilliant little film all about Children’s Rights. If you’re under 18, all the rights described in this video apply to you, as laid out by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The video features loads of young people acting out the rights laid out by the convention. It’s really funny, and even more informative.
Speaking of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is 25 years old this year, and has been protecting children and young people all over the world since November 1989. It was brought into effect in Ireland in September 1992.
For more information on Comhairle na nÓg, check out their website here. For more details on your rights as laid out by this convention, The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman have launched this amazingly handy little app called ItsYourRight, which compiles all your rights as granted by the UN in one handy location on your phone or iPad. Cool, right?
Check out these motivational TED talks from 5 women who are making their mark on the world in different ways.
Sheryl Sandberg is Chief operating officer of Facebook and author of the best-selling Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In her motivational TED Talk, Sandberg delivers the distressing facts about women in business. She shares her three pieces of advice on how to become a leader. Sandberg concludes with the hope that through activism and the recognition of our potential and capabilities, women will one day even out the top.
Leymah Gbowee is a peace and women rights activist, leader of women’s movement that contributed to the end of the Liberian Civil War in 2003, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner of 2011. Gbowee relates her experiences traveling her home of Liberia, interacting with young women who strive for and are denied their right to education, or are abused in exchange for education. She presses the importance of the potential of girls, and what this potential can create.
Sarah Kay is creator of Project VOICE, poet, teacher, and best-selling author. The mission behind Project VOICE is to entertain, inspire, and educate through spoken word poetry. Kay began the inklings of this mission when she was a teenager. Now, Kay travels using spoken word poetry to empower her students, to get them to release their voice, and to share her own story.
Sylvia Earle is a marine biologist, author, and oceanographer. A renowned oceanographer and academic in her profession, Earle led the first team of all women to explore the ocean in 1970. She has dedicated thousands of hours to underwater ocean exploration, and to preserving ocean life. Her passion and commitment has driven her to educate on the importance of the ocean, and to deliver informational speeches on the harms being caused to it. This is the basis of her prize-winning TED speech. Earle shares her discoveries, and technological advancements underwater. She delivers a call for a proactive approach in protecting this imperative piece of our planet’s ecosystem.
May El-Khalil is founder of the Beirut International Marathon. “I believe that running can change the world”: this is how she begins her TED Speech on what drove her to create an annual running marathon in Beirut. Her country has suffered from a history of violence and division, and with the belief that running could bring unity, El-Khalil campaigned around the country talking to people from housewives to political officials, educating them on marathon running. Since the first marathon, participants have continued to grow. In 2013 the first all-women run for empowerment, in Lebanon, was held. Despite the continued divisions in Lebanon, El-Khalil’s marathon has continued to bring her people together.
Are you registered to vote? Some of you may know the answer; others won't. First off, see if you're on the register of electors here. If you're registered, great. If not, don't worry! We'll guide you through it.
This year's referendums on same-sex marriage and the presidential age are being held on 22nd May. The deadline to register to vote for this is May 5th 2015. Find out more about the referendums here.
The annual electoral register deadline is in November each year for all new voters and those looking to change their details.
That gives you a while to get your name down on that list before the deadline ahead of what is going to be a very busy year of voting in 2015, with referendums proposed on marriage, reducing the voting age and others.
Once this is done, your details will be added to the Register of Electors and you'll be able to vote in local, national and European elections as well as referendums (once you're eligible- just check out the details below).
If you are already on the voting register but you have moved address or need to change some details, just fill in this form and send it off as above.
If you're over 18 and an Irish citizen, you're sorted. You can vote for any person in any election for as long as you live in Ireland! If you don't meet those criteria, things can be a tad more difficult. Fear not, though, you still might be eligible to vote!
Yes! You can still register for the supplement to the register at least 15 days before polling day, even if you're not 18 on the date you register, but will be 18 on or before polling day. To do this, follow the instructions above to register as noral, but make sure you also submit a copy of your birth certificate with your form.
Generally, you need to vote in person at an official voting centre, but there's a couple of circumstances in which you might be eligible for postal votes. This is especially relevant to students, so listen up! You can register for a postal vote if you are:
Applications for inclusion on the Postal Voters List must be received by 25 November at the latest. However, if you're eligible for the postal voter list but are not included, you can apply for the supplement to the list.
The latest date for receipt of applications is 22 days before the referendum or election. For this year's referedum on same-sex marriage the deadline to apply for the supplement to the postal register by May 1st. To apply, you can get the forms from your local authority.
If you're a non-Irish citizen and want to vote in the elections here, you'll need to be an Irish resident since at least September of last year and, of course, be over 18. You'll still need to register, though, so make sure you fit at least one of these criteria and get yourself the right form and get your name down on that list!
Check out our factsheets and opinion pieces on engaging in society. This is a key area that the SpunOut Action Panel has prioritised for 2013.
Tips to help you take action and make a positive difference.
Ireland is a democracy, which means the people elect their representatives and government by means of secret ballot.
Joining a political party means that you are registering with a political party and letting them and the world know that you generally support their causes and activates.
One SpunOutter gives her opinions on whether the voting age should be lowered to 16.
Ireland is a constitutional democracy (you’ve lost me already SpunOut!). Well, this basically means that we get to have a say in who runs our country and what the laws of the land are.
The Know Your Rights information packs are provided by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL). They are a series of booklets designed to inform people about their rights, which the ICCL has rolled out as part of its Know Your Rights public information project. The booklet is designed to inform the general public, in clear and accessible language, of their rights in the areas of Garda search powers, arrest, interview, detention, provision of bodily samples and public order.
The State gets its power from the people of Ireland through the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann). The Constitution sets out some of the rights of people who live in Ireland. We also have rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). All agents of the State, including An Garda Síochána, must act in line with the Constitution and the ECHR.
The Constitution is interpreted by the courts and is supplemented by more detailed laws, which must also be in line with the Constitution. The law must also follow the ECHR and its decisions. Gardaí must act according to court rulings and legislation, otherwise they may be breaking the law.
If you have any doubts about the way you have been treated by the Gardaí, or if they have interfered with any of your rights, you should contact a solicitor.
Join Students for Sensible Drug Policy on June 26th for the Global Action Day raising awareness of the harms caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs.
Over 100 cities around the world including 10 locations across Ireland will participate in the International 'Support. Don’t Punish.' day.
The events aim to spread the message that the best way to reduce problematic drug use is through support, not punishment.
SSDP say: “Despite being fundamentally a public health issue, drug policy has been wrongly wrapped up in the criminal justice system.”
“The issue of problematic drug use in Irish society is becoming more apparent every day. Ireland has one of the highest rates of drug-related deaths and heroin use in Europe. Groups like the Ana Liffey Drug Project are trying to combat these harms but there are legislative obstacles at every turn. We need to realise that criminalising people dependent on drugs is incredibly counterproductive and deeply inhumane.”
The upcoming events will feature retired police officials, parents of children affected by drug harms, doctors who work with substance dependency and representatives of supportive organisations who have their hands tied by current legislation.
On the 3rd of June at 6.30pm, SpunOut.ie are holding a focus group to look at its LGBT content. With this in mind we're aiming to talk to young people about the following areas:
We'll have some pizza and we'll also be able to cover your travel expenses for getting here. If you're free please let just fill in this form.
The focus group is an inclusive group for all young people but we'd to love to hear specifically from young LGBT(QI) people and their friends/families/allies.
James Doorley, NYCI deputy director said: “Up to 400,000 young people aged 18-25 have the right to vote tomorrow. The high numbers registered recently are an indication of the level of interest in this referendum.”
“The past few months have seen over 100,000 people – primarily young people, students, and first time voters – making the effort to ensure that their voices are heard on 22 May. More than 60,000 people were added to the supplementary register in advance of the May 5th deadline. Moreover, many NYCI members, including SpunOut and BelongTo, as well as the USI and other youth and community organisations ran youth and student-focussed voter registration drives resulting in up to 40,000 new voters being added to the electoral register in November last year.”
“It is your democratic right and a great opportunity to have your say in shaping the future of this country,” concluded Mr Doorley.
Polling stations are open until 10pm tonight so there is still plenty of time to vote. Need your Polling Day Qs answered, click here!
SpunOut.ie is not advocating any side in either referendum taking place on May 22nd in order to provide you - our readers - with unbiased, factual information as to what you are being asked to vote on. We are encouraging all of our readers to get out and vote, no matter how you plan to vote.
On May 22nd, many young people will be voting for the first time ever. SpunOut.ie caught up with some of these first time voters to see how it felt to be casting the ballot for the first time. Stay tuned through the day on Friday May 22nd for more first-time voter updates!
Next up is Benji Foley. Benji is a queer, transgender student living in Offaly. He is 19 years old and studies translation at DCU. A walking stereotype; when he's not at a rally, protest or demonstration for LGBTQ rights, he works part time as a drag queen. He likes pina coladas, getting caught in the rain and long walks on the beach.
For me, the decision to vote yes to marriage equality was not a decision, it was a necessity. Growing up as a queer person, I have always wanted to be treated equally; this has not been the case for most of my life. I am hoping that a Yes vote will help to change the inequalities I and my community have faced throughout our whole lives – I will be able to marry the person I love without fear that our relationship will not be jeapordized by the law. Married transgender people will be able to keep their families without sacrificing legal recognition of their gender. Most importantly, it is a stepping stone towards the end of discrimination against LGBTQ people in Ireland.
My decision to vote yes is an informed one – I have educated myself thoroughly on the implications of a Yes vote by reading impartial information provided by the Referendum Commission and literature from groups such as Marriage Equality and the Union of Students in Ireland. For me, it was easy to tell fact from untruth, but I have come across an alarming amount of people who do not understand the proposed legislation or even the voting process. The fact that people had to be told not to take selfies with the ballot paper is proof of this. The Marriage Equality referendum has nothing to do with adoption or surrogacy – it's about the love of two people. Nothing more, nothing less.
This morning at 9am I dragged my half-asleep parents with me to the polling station to cast my first ever vote. I ignored every No poster I passed by along the way – I've learned to block them out by now. I'm done crying over ignorance.
The whole process was so simple and took less than five minutes, but I've never felt so nervous. This small, white piece of paper had my whole future written on it. I couldn't help but look at the other people queueing up, wondering if they were voting yes or no, wondering if they thought I was equal to them or undeserving of rights. Nevertheless, I kept my head held high, and put a big fat X next to YES.
I thought I would feel elated after the vote but now I feel more nervous than ever. The longest 18 hours of my life have just begun. If you haven't already done so, I implore you to get out and vote; and if you are still undecided, I ask you to consider voting yes. You have the power to change my life and the lives of every LGBTQ person in this country for the better or the worse. Please put that power to good use. Don't waste that power. Vote.
Whether you're voting Yes or No, we'd love to hear from you. Remember to keep all contributions respectful in tone and considerate of LGBT young people in approach. Send us your opinion pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org