Fine Gael target the young but is it genuine or are they phoning it in?

Ireland.com has information on Fine Gael’s plans to target young people over the course of the summer;

A campaign to encourage more young people to vote was launched today by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

The Young Fine Gael (YFG) initiative will use advertising at summer music festivals to encourage voter registration.

Large billboards on the back of a van will be displayed at events like Electric Picnic and Hi:Fi.

“Decisions are made by those who turn up and Fine Gael wants to ensure that every young person who is eligible to vote can automatically do so”, Mr Kenny said.

Mr Kenny said that his party wants to see automatic voter registration at the age of 18 by using the RSI system.

“The more young people that get involved in politics, even just through the simple act of voting, the better it will be for everyone,” Mr Kenny said.

I’ve spoken before about the need for real engagement by political parties with young people and this campaign at least shows some effort is being made but frankly some bubbly-looking posters will do little in the real world.

One problem here is that this is a Young Fine Gael campaign and not a general Fine Gael one; surely the purpose of a young political spin-off party is to encourage political discourse amongst the underage populous; but once that young person turns 18 they are into the realm of “real” politics with regular political parties? As far as I’m aware Young Fine Gael does not run candidates in any elections so why on Earth is it running an election campaign?

The main issue however is not on minor details like the campaign backers or the “cool” image that they try to portray it is instead the lack of clout a campaign like this has. It’s one thing to tell young people to register to vote but why should they if you cannot give them a real and tangable reason to? Someone aged 18 doesn’t care about pension policy and they certainly don’t care about Household Protection Bills; if anything they’re more concerned with getting a house in the first place, never mind protecting themselves in it.

If Fine Gael really do want to bring in the youth vote (and it is an untapped market that could have huge sway next year) it should state it’s policies that concern young people today, not just the ones that will effect them in 10 or 20 years time. Education, housing, the cost of running a car, career prospects and job security, the cost of living and so on. As I’ve said before, it’s no point in providing young people with radical and popular policies when they visit Young Fine Gael; they’re not the party that will be in Government. Attracting young people with young-friendly policies from Young Fine Gael is a sly marketing tactic that leads people to believe you actually care about youth issues, when the actual politicians have bigger fish to fry.

It’s a nice idea from Fine Gael but it will only prove worthwhile and honest if the party are prepared to speak to the youth of this country, not at them.

13 Comments

  1. Housing what young person cares about housing :)

    Drug legalisation now there is a vote getter at the electric picnic

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  2. “It’s a nice idea from Fine Gael but it will only prove worthwhile and honest if the party are prepared to speak to the youth of this country, not at them.”

    The purpose of youth political parties (amongst many) is to facilitate that. Young Fine Gael provides a place where young people can raise political issues with political parties, and also for young people to gain confidence in a political climate.

    As an example of the success in that, two of the candidates in Dublin who are most likely to [b]win[/b] seats for FG are still members of YFG – Leo Varadkar and Lucinda Creighton – both in their mid twenties.

    Getting young people into the Dáil is the best way to have young people listened to. FG can be proud of its record in recent time in that regard, and YFG’s role in it.

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  3. Oh, and the evidence would suggest that is difficulties with the registration process are the primary reason as to why young people don’t vote, not apathy.

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  4. Administrator 12/07/2006 at 16:35

    The purpose of youth political parties (amongst many) is to facilitate that. Young Fine Gael provides a place where young people can raise political issues with political parties, and also for young people to gain confidence in a political climate.

    But do you not think that to some degree the use of young political parties is questionable; not about FG in this instance but for example the Young PD’s were talking about legalising cannabis and other policies aimed at attracting the youth, but we all know that the real PD’s wouldn’t dream of doing this;
    Out of interest, at what point does a young person become an old person, and no longer applicable to YFG etc.? I would have thought that young political parties are there to bring politics to people who cannot express their opinions at the polls, and the regular parties take over once a voter is concerned?

    As an example of the success in that, two of the candidates in Dublin who are most likely to [b]win[/b] seats for FG are still members of YFG – Leo Varadkar and Lucinda Creighton – both in their mid twenties.

    I’ve not yet read nor seen any polls on individual candidates so I cannot possibly argue or agree with you here; I don’t really see someone with YFG membership running for regular FG as proof of a success in appealing to young people, however. Some people are interested in politics and would become members of a political party at a young age either way.

    Getting young people into the Dáil is the best way to have young people listened to. FG can be proud of its record in recent time in that regard, and YFG’s role in it.

    I don’t agree that it is the best way; politicians of any age can and should listen to young people, just like they listen to people in other age brackets.
    Frankly I wouldn’t vote for a young person just under the assumption that they’d speak on youth issues; I might vote for a political party that shows real committment to them however.

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  5. Administrator 12/07/2006 at 16:38

    Also, what evidence do you cite in relation to voter apathy/registrations?

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  6. I’ll get back to the rest of you points tomorrow at some stage:

    With regards to your query about apathy, the CSO did reasech on this in the Third Quarterly National Household Survey back in 2002 in the aftermath of that GE. It is available here

    http://www.cso.ie/qnhs/documents/qnhsvoterparticipationandabstention.pdf

    It is the only particularly credible information on this issue.

    Young Fine Gael also published proposals on who to get young people involved and particapating in Irish democracy. If you wish to have a gander at it, it is available here:

    http://www.yfg.ie/downloads/Youthparticipation.doc

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  7. Administrator 12/07/2006 at 17:34

    Thanks for those links; While I have no problem with the idea of automatic registration (I think it’s a sensible idea) I don’t think that CSO survey really proves anything;
    in the 18-19 category nearly 40% say they didn’t vote because they weren’t registered, however nearly 22% then say they chose not to vote long before the polling date with a further 26% and 5% saying they decided weeks and months in advance respectively. What that says to me is that over half of the non-voters aged 18-19 decided not to vote in good time and so didn’t need to register. As you can also see a further 40% made the decision on the day or shortly beforehand and so polling is not an issue; although I grant you that these people may have made the decision because they could not register in time etc.
    Of the age group 20-24 it works like this; 25% didn’t vote because they weren’t registered; 15% decided not to vote long beforehand, 25% did so weeks before and 7% did so months… that’s 47% of non-voters in that group with over 40% making that decision days before or on the day of polling when registration was not an issue.

    At the same time in people aged 18-19 24% said they had no interest in voting, just under 5% said they were disillusioned and 7.6% said they lacked knowledge or didn’t think their vote matters… that’s mearly 40% who didn’t vote because they didn’t understand or care about politics.

    20-24 nearly 26% had no interest, 6% were disillusioned and around 7% lacked knowledge or didn’t think it mattered; that’s again just under 40% and is far higher than those in that age group that didn’t vote due to a lack of registration.

    Of the 20-24 group who didn’t vote over half had failed to vote in previous elections too, if there was confusion based on registering surely that would have been solved the first time around; the figures suggest to me that the 54% couldn’t be bothered at all.

    I’ve yet to read the YFG document but I’m sure it’s interesting; I still don’t see the real Fine Gael reach out to young people however, and all this documentation is proving my assumtion that the youth parties do a lot of good work for young people concerned with politics but that fails to be carried forward by the guys who make the actual decisions

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  8. John, I don’t know what part of the country you’re from, but here in the North West, the politicos stumble over themselves to make sure the get you registered. I personally was registered by John Perry. That might have been eight years ago, but things haven’t changed that much.

    And on the topic of John Perry, I don’t vote for the man, but not because of my feelings for FG, but because locally, his focus is on North Sligo rather than the whole constituency and nationally he appears almost as ineffectual as one of our former FF TDs, Mattie Brennan.

    And yes, I know he’s the Chair of the PAC.

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  9. Moreover, YFG’s website is even worse than than the FG one, which is saying something. Get a graphic designer and a programmer (and no, I’m not whoring myself out, though I could probably do with the work!) to fix it up. Get rid of Nuke too, and replace it with something useful.

    And get rid of the Word files. Provide PDFs or make the documents into real pages on the website. Using real names for the person posting up the articles on the site would be a fine idea too: the rather faceless “YFG Member” gives off a bad impression.

    Think about providing member blogs at blogs.yfg.ie, with the lastest posts listed on the blogs.yfg.ie frontpage, and let people post what they like. If a particularly good post comes up, throw it on the YFG.ie homepage.

    Oh, I’ve got so many other ideas on what ye could do to stop it being a pale reflection of the parent party and turn it into something actually worth going to.

    I’m no fan of the PDs, and the YPDs website stinks of the same Yellow Pack PostNuke nonsense the YFG site does, but at least they give of the impression of having a bit of craic, and there’s room for discussion on the site.

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  10. Keith wrote: John, I don’t know what part of the country you’re from, but here in the North West, the politicos stumble over themselves to make sure the get you registered.

    That is true of areas like the North-West or the more traditional areas of Meath, where the local political organisations know who is turning 18 and get them registered.

    However, in the greater Dublin area, and that includes where I currently live in Ratoath in Meath, there are huge populations which are essentially annonoymous to each other, and so the old system does not work as easily. The best example of this was highlighted in Dublin South East by Ógra FF which showed huge innaccuracies within the electoral register.

    Also, within these area, the political organisations are not as strong, and so don’t have the resources to put into registering people.

    Further to that, young people are the most mobile of all elements of the population, and so might have to re-register a number of times early on in their lives.

    With regards to the website, I’d agree, and it has been raised a few times before. But at the moment is an issue of budget, as we don’t seem to be overburdend with those who have the skill to do that work within YFG (or if they have, they aren’t telling people). Personally, I would try and emulate the Young Unionist style of website myself.

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  11. [...] main instrument of youth participation within Ireland’s political parties, the youth wing, is actually counter-intuitive and counter-productive and that young people and young voters shouldn’t be patronised into [...]

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  12. [...] of this enhances my view that the youth party movement in Ireland is the manifestation of political lip-service that [...]

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  13. if anyone wants to know wht YOung Fine Gael is like have a look at this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aDLM1Qp-bY

    A fine sample of the top quality people that Young Fine Gael attract. The singer here is the current Vice-President, Liam Quinn.

    So, if anyone feels like joining the “fun party” you know where to find them…some cowshed singing lets worship Enda Kenny songs.

    Reply

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