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We need an active Youth to enact real change

Just because most secondary school students can't vote, doesn't mean they can't have a voice.

Written by Craig McHugh | View this authors Twitter page and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

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In May, Ireland will vote on Marriage Equality. The youth of today is in overwhelming support of it’s passing (as is the majority of older generations) – but young people have and continue to play a pivotal role in it’s campaign. This is testament to the argument that if we want real change we need younger voices in our democracy both in and out of parliament.

Last April, I was elected President of the Irish Second-Level Students Union. I was 17 and facing my Leaving Certificate year, I quickly realised the scale of a position I’d been elected to and realised two things – we need more young people fighting for change and I need to seriously talk to my parents about postponing sixth year until 2015.

Currently Dail Eireann, in majority, represents middle-older age males and has a very dismal reflection of the society we live in. Our female representation is dismal, and given the major role young people have in our economy – we are also represented quite poorly. If we ever want to change this and/or change the way our country is run we need to stop complaining and start making an impact.

While it could be argued, that young people don’t tend to have very much of an interest in the political agenda of our country – there is plenty of proof to counter this. Politics isn’t just running for office or engaging on the Vincent Browne Hashtag on Twitter – it’s about society and making a difference. And in a time of lies and election U turns – our youth could be excused for being apathetic but young people are now, more than ever engaging in democracy.

However, it’s nowhere near enough. USI and other youth representation groups have been heavily involved in the build up to the Marriage Equality Referendum with a solid nationwide viral campaign - #MakeGraTheLaw and a very impressive and successful voter registration drive leading to over 20,000 joining our electorate. The proof is here more than ever, young people want to take control of their futures and the days are now dying out of which debate and discussion in the political arena is dominated by the middle aged and older men in suits with briefcases.

But, while University students are out doing their best to drive up youth representation at the ballot box and advocating for a fairer society – those of the younger age bracket also have a strong, respected space and platform for driving change.

ISSU is the recognised platform for Student Voice (Second-Level) in the Republic of Ireland and is a recognised partner in the education sector. Our voice is the one that drives change in reform and advocates on behalf of students. We want to expand our representation and legitimize even further our stance on national issues to ensure students have an even stronger, respected voice in our education system. The organization is run entirely by young people and is always open to new ideas and intiaitves – but we want and need far more voices!

On April 1st, the ISSU will host it’s 2015 AGM. At this, we want students to be put right at the centre of education reform and for young people, to have a greater say in their schools and in the investment into our education sectors. Tokenism needs to be laid to rest once and for all and young people need to have a solid say in their democracy regardless as to whether or not they’ve reached the age of voting. At #ISSU15 – we will talk, we will debate, we will listen and we will ballot. We’ve been promoting this event for months now and as the final days of preparation close in we’re making one final call for young people to turn up and have their voices heard.

To join the ISSU you can head to furthermore you can still register for our AGM at

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Published March 30th, 2015
Last updated July 28th, 2015
Tags activism
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