Why #GE16 has turned me off

Many people of my generation are turned off by party politics.

In the leaders debate we could plainly see the disconnect between our political leaders and the young population. Many people of my generation looked at the four party leaders and we are left wondering if they are equipped to make the decisions that affect those of us who are under 35. They seem to believe that, as the elected officials, they are given a right to shape society in their own image and are oblivious to their responsibilities to guide society to meet the needs of all who participate in it.

The Leader’s Debate was shambolic. In my estimation it was insulting; a heckle-fest by those asking for our support to serve as our Government. I offer that criticism to each of the four candidates equally. The purpose of political debate is to inform the voter of the issues at stake and the variety of solutions on offer. The only issue that was clarified is how utterly incapable our political leaders are to see beyond their own careers, parties and self-interest. It is clear from the debate that the skill of communication, so important to the Millennial generation, is entirely absent from the political sphere.

When sitting with friends over a beer we can have frank and open discussion on every topic under the sun. We seldom agree in totality but we have the capability to discuss, to hear the other side, to consider its merits and change our own perceptions when offered a convincing reason to do so. Judging from the leaders debate, this ability is entirely absent from our political leaders.

The Marriage referendum was an example of the society that the young of Ireland are looking to build. Not only did the young people of Ireland come out in their thousands on polling day, but in the months and weeks leading to the vote, a discussion was led by the young to encourage their families and friends to support the marriage equality referendum, not because it was good policy, but because it mattered in shaping an inclusive society that is valued by our people. It directly effected our lives and the lives of those we love. It was equality that was written into our Constitution, not support for a party. The Marriage equality vote showed just how powerful the youth of Ireland can be when given a reason to stand and be counted.

No longer do the youth of Ireland vote for party principles, or familiar faces. We do not want our national parliamentarians working on potholes or medical cards, we want them working on making the weak in our society strong. We live in a world so much bigger than Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. We have realised that the political party system is designed to bury social issues, not address them.

In the leaders debate when the topic of abortion was brought up we saw how quickly the candidates (who were previously on the cusp of descending into fist fights) shrank back from the issue and hid behind catch-phrases and anecdotes.

This is the fundamental difference between the political class and the youth of Ireland. We do not have the same regard for ‘traditions’. Our political masters are standing in our way. They decide which issues are worthy of discussing and which are not, such as Micheál Martin declaring that the issue of the 8th amendment is not a priority for him and his party, regardless of the will of the electorate. They decide for their own party-political reasons, with their career as the primary motivator, what direction Ireland moves in.

In the last decade we have seen two distinctly different governments, and yet to me and many like me, we see no difference at all in how our country is governed. In the general election of 2016 we look on and see that the only option we are being presented with is more of the same, where politicians make promises we don’t believe they can or will keep, in order to control the conversation. As long as we are locked in a debate over what ‘fiscal space’ means, we are avoiding discussing the real needs of reforming our education system, addressing the very real and serious second tier citizens status of Mná na hÉireann, or how on earth we can spend unfathomably vast sums of money on a health care system that strips all who come into contact with it (both patients and staff) of dignity.

Now, more than ever before, the voting population is more sophisticated, more globally aware, and better able to make informed judgements on the world around us. And frankly, when we look at our political masters – all we can feel is disappointed. We have been witness to the old adage our entire lives – Obviam novus princeps, idem vetus amet (Meet the new boss, same as the old boss).

And this is why the general election of 2016 is turning me, and others like me, off politics. We have come to realise that it does not matter who gets our number one – the system is fixed to ensure it makes very little difference. Regardless of who is elected on February 26th, the issues remain the same and change, apparently, isn’t on offer.

Emmy Maher

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