Why we should all lobby our politicans
SpunOut.ie volunteer Ross has plenty of experience lobbying politicians and shares some of the benefits of it
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to meeting people involved in politics, it can be a scary process, from researching what you want to talk about, arranging to meet the politician and also making sure you cover the points you want to cover. However, once you get used to it and practice lobbying, not only you are engaging in the democratic process, but there are also plenty of benefits of lobbying, for both your passions and yourself.
As someone who has lobbied politicians on a wide range of topics, from mental health, to international development and more locally cycling infrastructure, here are a few reasons why you should lobby and what benefits it entails.
What is Lobbying?
Lobbying is how ordinary people convince people in politics to take action on an issue. You can do this by meeting politicians, at a formal meeting or informally on the street, talking about something that you are passionate about and trying to convince that politician that they should take action. It might be an issue that affects you or someone you know.Or maybe it doesn't affect anyone you know, but it’s a local, national, or even international issue that you feel needs to be supported. Find out more about how to lobby a politician.
Why should you lobby?
Improves your confidence
Whether you have been interviewed for a job or only asked difficult questions by your friend on a topic, having the ability to answer questions clearly is key to engaging a politician. By improving your confidence, it allows you to both be able to talk about your chosen topic and also gain a relationship with the politician, which can be key in ensuring you have a good contact point. That makes talking to a politician much easier and more accessible. Being able to engage in a discussion with clear points will help you in lots of areas of your life.
Creates positive change
If the politician makes a commitment to make a change that you suggested and it gets implemented, the euphoria you can get from that is incredible. It also reaffirms what the democratic process can be. You’ve helped to make your community or country better for not just yourself, but others too. Many young people for example have contacted politicians about the climate crisis, and led to Ireland declaring a climate emergency and action through the Climate Action Plan. Continued lobbying like that is needed to ensure the actions are not ‘watered down’ and are implemented soon.
The people you lobby with are as passionate as you are
While you may feel that you are on your own on some issues, coming together for a common cause is amazing to both become a stronger voice for change and put less work on an individual person. Lobbying with young people is particularly fun, as we talk about our passions and the reasons we’re so interested in the topic. You can meet fun and bubbly young people with amazing energy. You’ll meet lots of people who are passionate about the same issues, such as education, jobs and accommodation.
It removes stigmas about young people
While a small but vocal minority, young people have been known as lazy, or only protesting rather than getting jobs. By directly lobbying politicians and stakeholders (people that can create change or are involved in the change), it can remove the idea that young people are not involved or do not care about voting and engaging with the government. It shows rather the opposite and can lead to more informed conversations about issues from people of all kinds of backgrounds and all different ages.
It allows you to talk to politicians in all areas of government
Whether it be on a local, national or European level, it is unusual that a politician will not get back to you if your lobby request is brief. While you might not be able to personally meet a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), or even TDs at times, by sending a clear email of the change you want and why it should matter to them, their assistants (the people receiving the emails) are more likely to refer your email to the politician and get a response. If you do not get a response within a few days, phone the office of the politician to ensure they got the email or send another email reminding them of your previous email.
How has it helped me?
I am writing this article as I fly back from Brussels after learning more about lobbying at the One Youth 2019 conference. It has led to some opportunities that I will remember for the rest of my life. From lobbying in the European Parliament for international development funding to meeting my local TDs about youth work, I’ve had the chance to not only developing myself, but to become a more active citizen through meeting the public representatives that are meant to serve us.
Lobbying can also have great personal effects, meeting like-minded people and challenging your views and understanding different viewpoints, improve your confidence, research skills and make your area a better place to live for everyone. I would recommend every young person should lobby their politicians on every level, irrelevant of whether they are of voting age or not, as you are never too young to create change for the better!
While voting is as important, your views on politics are important too. SpunOut.ie are looking for anyone aged 16-25, living in Ireland to share your views on Irish politics, politicians and political parties. If you are interested in writing about anything above, click here to become a writer for SpunOut.ie!