UCDSU have recently confirmed that they plan to “mobilise” students to vote in the upcoming elections, but that they will not hold a voting registration drive. This comes after almost 85,000 students have registered to vote nationally in the last year, many as a response to the marriage referendum last May.
The University Observer contacted UCDSU Campaigns and Communications Officer, Cian Byrne, for a comment on the decision not to hold a drive and the SU’s plans to encourage students to vote before the general election, however no response was received.
Education Officer Dannii Curtis explained that “the drive last year was on registering the student vote, the drive this year is on mobilising it effectively.” Curtis went on to state that “given the growing certainty around future funding for third level in Ireland in the absence of a strong student vote during a general election, I think it’s very important for students to vote.”
She noted that there was now a significant bloc of students who would be voting for the first time and that this could be utilised to make an impact on key issues. “We’re hoping to put in place a platform online whereby students can ask, tweet and message the email addresses and social media accounts of politicians in their constituency with specific questions on electoral issues put forward by UCD Students’ Union.”
Some such issues include youth suicide prevention and sexual consent issues across campus. UCDSU has run campaigns focused on these issues, largely focused within UCD, since last semester.
“Since taking office, we have campaigned on youth suicide prevention, sexual consent and violence and student housing and transport — important electoral issues which nevertheless need to be highlighted by young people to politicians ahead of the 2016 general election,” Curtis said.
Accommodation costs and third-level funding have become key concerns for students in the last number of years, something that Curtis notes. “Over the last five years, areas rented by UCD students — Ranelagh, Rathgar, Rathmines, Clonskeagh, Booterstown and Stillorgan— have seen the sharpest rises in the Irish rental market.” She claimed that the focus of UCD has been campaigning on behalf of students with the Irish Strategic Investment Fund to keep rates for campus accommodation at the same level. Rent in UCD residences has gone up by 14 per cent this year.
Funding is also a prevalent issue for students, with Curtis commenting “The Cassell’s Report has received significant media attention over the past year and there’s been a lot of national debate on third level funding. High profile lobbying on this issue has been important but the real challenge on February 26th will be doing our utmost to ensure a turnout.”