'Local issues on a European stage' - Canvassers count down to the #EUelections2019

Ross Boyd, a Social Sciences and Cultural Innovation student in DCU talks about This Time I'm Voting, a grassroots campaign to encourage people to vote in the European Elections on Friday 24th May.

Tell us about yourself!

I'm nineteen I go to DCU, I study Social Sciences and Cultural Innovation. I'm part of the This Time I'm Voting campaign which is an information campaign awareness campaign to encourage people to vote in the European Elections. I run the campaign in DCU and I'm organising an event, a debate with the [Member of European Parliament] candidates, I'm also separately, I'm a member of the ONE campaign, which is a campaign, a charity [working] against extreme poverty. I'm also part of Planet International which has a similar meaning to this, and also with the SpunOut Dublin Regional Action Panel as well. 

What have you been doing with the This Time I'm Voting campaign?

For the most part, it's information awareness to other people in my college. So for example, I've been running the social media pages, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I've also been doing information stands which I've been doing sometimes with [DCU Students' Union] as well, and especially a big push with the Students Union as well, to raise awareness of the elections.

And then, hopefully, I'll also be making videos to get a sort of multi-faceted approach and an awareness campaign to get people registered to vote. In fact, on the same day as the debate, I'll also doing voter registration. So I'll be doing that with the Students' Union and aim to get as many people registered to vote.

What has been students' reception to the campaign?

The reception has been a bit timid, but at the same time, there's a lot of sort of unknowingness that you have to inform the people. It's the case sometimes that they don't know what the date of the European Elections are. They just know that there's a certain date in May - but that's it. And there's also quite a bit of confusion regarding non-Irish or European citizens, whether they can vote here, or in another country or if there are other ways such as postal or proxy vote as well. It's kind of just, spreading awareness, mainly and getting people to sort of have it in their minds that there is an election on the 24th May, that they need to register by the 7th May, and just so that they know what the parties are, who they represent - stuff like that.

What does the European Union mean to you?

What the EU means to mean to me basically, is a way for countries to come together in light of the difficult circumstances, that they've originated from, so that would be World War II, so they've been able to have a common ground and work around to be able to sort of link together, and to have their own voices represented on a European stage and make great change for everyone collectively.

So an example would be the case of having free movement across Europe; free trade, and having that identity as being a European rather than just your own citizen of your own country. That's probably what Europe means to me. It's certainly a lot more than just a case of MEPs are just being sent off to Brussels or Strasbourg, it's a case of, they're also your local representatives and you can have local issues on a European stage, which I think is most important.

What are the biggest challenges that Europe faces today?

I probably would say that the lack of transparency is probably the main issue at the moment. I think there's sort of a lot of lack of information that is spread about the work of the MEPs, that there's still a lot of misinformation that MEPs are somehow going on holidays for four and a half years, and then just another five years of the same experience. But, from going on a trip to Brussels in January, I've sort of realised how intense the actual job is and in that way, I've sort of realised how, despite sort of, 'fake news', misinformation, whatever term you'd like to use, that, the MEPs, some are very hard-working and that while they're also [working] to improve transparency in the European Parliament and the Commission, that it's still a problem that they're trying to solve and that it can only be done through consolidation and cooperation.

Why should students get out and vote on 24th May?

The main reason why students should vote on 24th May is because, if you look at the figures across Europe, the age demographic for young people, which would be 18 - 25, only 21.4 of people voted in the European Elections in 2014, which is, although it's incredibly low, in comparison to the 55 per cent that voted in the overall population. So I would say that definitely, it's important that young people are at the table of politics, how they're going to be affected by major issues, such as climate change, transport, even local and rural divide. It's a case of having that voice, and telling your MEPs that you're not happy, that you want the change, and have it on a European level that affects hundreds of millions of people.