Cock the vote

Young Fine Gael have just launched their poster campaign for the Lisbon Treaty and its vaguely risqué nature is causing quite a stir… well, not really, but a few people are talking about it.

Young Fine Gael’s press release on the campaign states that the organisation aims to “Excite Electorate on Lisbon Treaty” however as Damien points out, all they’re really doing is making the same mistakes as Rock The Vote Ireland.

The central error of Rock The Vote in last year’s election was that it failed to address [b]any[/b] of the issues at all, instead offering its viewers hollow talking points where the messenger took precedent over the message. So rather than have a discussion on the issues that mattered to young people, they had celebrities saying “rock the vote” to camera. As a result any discussion around the campaign focused on the celebrities they managed to attract rather than the point the celebrities were meekly trying to get across.

For Young Fine Gael the same distracted reaction is already happening – any talk around their campaign has not been about Lisbon’s merits or otherwise, it’s been about the way in which the youth group decided to campaign on Lisbon. The ads were obviously designed to generate a reaction under the assumption that all publicity is good publicity but instead the distraction created is clearly counter-productive to the intent behind the creation of the campaign in the first place.

The other main failing of Rock The Vote was in its inability to justify its message. When it told young people to go out and vote, the obvious retort was “why?”, to which the campaign could give no answer. When Young Fine Gael tells people to go out and vote yes to Lisbon, again the obvious retort is “why?” and it’s certainly not answered within the poster.

Shockingly, when you go to the press release you [b]still[/b] don’t get any real reason to vote for Lisbon.

In the press release, YFG President Barry Walsh states:

Young Fine Gael does not propose the young people of Ireland support this Treaty purely on the basis of past economic and social benefits to Ireland. Rather, we believe it should be supported because of the real potential it offers to further improve the prospects of the young people of Ireland and Europe. The benefits to young people are clear.

The release then goes onto list a number of the “clear” benefits to young people, many of which focus purely on the basis of past economic and social benefits to Ireland, such as the “Massive EU investment in Ireland” and “Opportunities to study and work abroad”.

The release promotes Lisbon as a way of giving people “Equality regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation”, “Environmental protection” and “The Euro”; which (like the two listed in the last paragraph) would all be valid arguments if a ‘No’ vote lead to Ireland being instantly kicked out of the EU. But it won’t.

Finally the list bizarrely includes benefits like “Food quality”, “Peace” and “End to the Roaming Charge Rip off”; the latter of which I’m sure Pat Phelan would be happy to chime in on.

So after seeing the poster campaign and reading the press release of an organisation actively campaigning for a particular outcome it’s still not possible to get an answer, complex or simple, as to why we should do what they say we should do. This is candy floss campaigning and pure attention seeking.

The fact is that on a vast topic like Lisbon, press releases and poster campaigns will do nothing to inform the people and (Old?) Fine Gael itself is organising local talks around the country to talk about the treaty in a constructive way. This is a good idea – Young Fine Gael’s hollow poster is not.

All of this enhances my view that the youth party movement in Ireland is the manifestation of political lip-service that needs to be completely overhauled or abolished. The intention of these parties should be to encourage real youth participation but instead they have become little more than a point of gestation for college students aiming for a career in politics. They preach to the choir and no-one else and they have failed miserably, just like Rock The Vote, to make any young person any more politically active or aware for reasons other than their own career enhancement.

If you don’t agree with the suggestion that youth parties are out of touch, just analyse the aforementioned campaign for one second. Putting aside the point that it went looking for the wrong kind of attention, the idea was to be controversial in order to get this attention. To do so they made a poster that is about as provocative as a Debenhams advert. I rest my case.

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