The Nolan show discussed Gerry Kelly’s comments about the crisis that power-sharing in Northern Ireland is facing. The show touched upon some young people’s attitudes towards governance in Northern Ireland.
So I thought I would put some meat on the bones of this argument and pose the simple question; are we giving young people a fair go in Northern Ireland?
Let’s start with some facts about just how interested young people in Northern Ireland are in politics. The last Young Life and Times survey that looked at this issue found a worrying level of apathy as just 14% said they had either a great deal or quite a lot of interest in politics. That is compared to 62% who said they had either not very much or no interest in politics.
While young people’s apathy is nothing new I cannot help but feel that the system in Northern Ireland we have ensures that they will never engage in the political process. After all, why would they? If some our senior politicians are sending out the message that politics isn’t working then why would they bother getting involved.
Tomorrow is an important day for the youth wings of all political parties as they recruit new members in Queens and Jordanstown. They will no doubt get around 90 people signing up with only a handful actually bothering to become active within the party. I doubt if the conduct of some of our politicians over the past few weeks will send out the message to them that joining any of these parties is a worthwhile endeavour.
However, I would make a small plea to those who are interested but annoyed to sign up to a political party or one of the many pressure groups that will be there tomorrow. It really is important for people who are annoyed and disengaged to get involved and make some real change happen. If we continue to leave politics to the same people then nothing will ever change.
Young people don’t get a fair go in many areas like jobs and political representation. But that is largely because they don’t get involved in the political process. Remember decisions are made by those who show up, so make sure you sign up to the political or social grouping of your choice tomorrow.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs