Elections 2014: Visions of the future

Some first-time voters – and one under-18-year-old – highlight their priorities for their local councils and the Europe Parliament

Mollie MacGinty, 18; Donegal, Midlands North West

Things the local council should prioritise after elections:

1. Develop an action plan to support the local economy. Donegal has been hit hard by unemployment and immigration in recent years. People have moved to the far corners of the world in search of jobs. With a dependency ratio as high as 56.9 per cent in some areas, it is evident that the council needs to work towards stimulating job growth. Given that 2014 is designated the year for jobs and the that Co Donegal has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, this is an issue that needs local government attention.

2. Public transport services in Donegal are in need of improvement. Rural areas are not serviced frequently enough by buses, making it difficult to get from one part of the county to another and leaving smaller towns and villages isolated.


3. A regional needs analysis would show local councillors what they need to work on in their upcoming term. Councillors should communicate with non- profit organisations such as Breakout (LGBT), Aware and minority groups for their local expertise and recommendations. Creating closer links with the local Comhairle na nÓg (I am a member) would ensure that the voice of local youth in Donegal is not forgotten.

Things the European Parliament should prioritise after the elections:

1. The European Parliament needs to ensure funding is available for research and innovation. European economies need to be at the forefront of entrepreneurial innovation to maintain a competitive edge. An innovative Europe is needed to instil confidence in our economies for both consumers and investors.

2. In working to stimulate economic growth, the EU needs to promote the development of a greener economy. According to Eurobarometer, more than half of Europeans feel air quality has deteriorated in the last 10 years. Seven in 10 Europeans consider acidification a serious problem. Global warming is becoming an increasingly concerning issue and the European Parliament must work to reduce the problem.

3. I think that all Irish representatives should be able to speak cúpla focal Gaeilge. It isn’t necessary to speak Irish the entire time in parliament, but I feel that cúpla focail here and there wouldn’t go amiss. Irish is an official language of the European Union so we have the right to have it spoken during parliamentary sessions.

Gareth Gregan, 20; Ennis district, South

Things the local council should prioritise after the elections:

1. Bring local governance into the 21st century through increased use of social media to keep constituents aware of what is being done and increase transparency. For example: Clare County Council is on twitter but has never tweeted.

2. Procedures should be put in place so that all future town planning be reviewed from a human-welfare perspective as much as the commercial and physical need. An example, schools could develop as multi- functional hubs of community activity to serve a local area rather than being sole purpose; or that developers must ensure proper infrastructure within a certain radius prior to construction, thus ending the construction of soulless estates at the edges of urban areas.

3. Increase youth participation throughout local governance. This could be done through adding youth-quotas (16-25-year-olds) to advisory bodies.

Things the European Parliament should prioritise after the elections:

1. Address the worsening situations on Europe’s borders (Ukraine, Syria) through further peace talks with all parties.

2. Continue with and develop the Youth Guarantee scheme. I see this as the beginning of solving the pan-European issue of youth unemployment ,but I still question whether the €80 million allocated to Ireland is enough.

3. Enact tougher privacy legislation that punishes companies/state bodies harshly for unauthorised usage of customers’ personal details while also cementing the fundamental right to privacy.

Joanna Siewierska, 17; Beaumont-Donaghmede, Dublin

Things my local council should prioritise after elections:

1. My council should look at creating more facilities for young people.

2. It should create more cycling lanes, and continue supporting cycling schemes in Dublin.

3. It should look at water charges, and water quality in my locality.

Things the European Parliament should prioritise after the elections:

1. A key issue that I feel needs to be addressed is citizenship within the EU, namely if the EU is supposed to be an area within which members can travel, work and trade freely then why is obtaining a citizenship in a different member state such a difficulty, especially for people who have migrated and settled down permanently in a new country? Many difficulties, including extremely high prices of obtaining citizenship, are denying thousands their rights after moving and settling in a new country.

2. The next big issue in my opinion is promoting gender equality through gender quotas within EU states. I believe that gender inequality within a lot of EU countries is a major problem. I think we have exhausted all other methods of achieving equality and quotas are the only way.

3. The European Parliament needs to look at increasing the amount of renewable energy being used in its states. Not only would this be fantastic for the environment, but also help many countries decrease their dependence on Russia’s gas which, with the Ukrainian conflict getting worse, is a top priority in my opinion.

Rob O'Donnell, 18; Cappamore-Kilmallock; South

Things my local council should prioritise after elections:

1. Countless towns are suffering from poor planning made during the boom years. Housing estates built outside town boundaries and shopping centres placed away from the town centre have turned many main streets into ghost towns. A wider vision is needed for the future of small towns in Ireland, possibly similar to the Limerick 2030 Vision.

2. Even six years into the economic downturn, we still see businesses closing down. Extortionate rates in some districts are crippling businesses, reducing the capital they have to invest in themselves and their future. While business rates may serve as a needed source of income for councils, it is better to have a healthy business pay a fair charge and keep people in employment, rather than one going out of business and therefore paying none at all in the future.

3. Local elections are exactly that, local. This level of government is most accessible for all and their work is what we see every day in our locality. It’s at this grassroots level that a host of problems can be addressed. More youth facilities and resources will help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, improve community spirit and are a social investment for the future.

Things the European Parliament should prioritise after the elections:

1. Youth unemployment is a major pan-European issue. MEPs must ensure this issue is tackled by implementing a properly functioning Youth Guarantee. Young people have the right to work at home and in other countries. It is vital they are given the assistance needed to re-enter the workforce if they become unemployed or cannot find work after graduation.

2. Net neutrality is something the EU must defend for its citizens. Access to quality internet should not be a monetary issue if it only benefits internet service providers. The internet is supposed to be accessible to all and owned by no one. If we wish to remain globally competitive this is essential to maintain for citizens and small businesses.

3. Within decades fossil fuels imported from Russia and the Middle East may become unaffordable. While many countries, including Ireland, are focusing on building renewable energy plants, the infrastructure to transport these vast amounts of power across Europe has not yet been built in the areas it will be needed. This is especially important for Ireland . MEPs must plan for this.

Laura Gaynor, 19, Sligo, Midlands North West

Things my local council should prioritise after elections:

1. I think they should apologise for money wasted on the legal case about the historic Lissadell estate. My local council spent over €5 million by taking it to the High Court. This came out of taxpayers’ money, and as a young voter it has damaged the way I see my local council. This needs to be addressed.

2. I think my local council should keep up the work to increase tourism in the area. Local businesses have developed packages and special deals, although I feel the county council could show more leadership here. One suggestion would be to re-pedestrianise our main shopping street.

3. Sligo County Council should invest more in projects like Tidy Towns in the run-up to the all-Ireland fleadh this July. It would be great if we could make Sligo town and county look great during the festival.

Things the European Parliament should prioritise after the elections:

1. I think they should start ploughing ahead with the Youth Guarantee. The Youth Guarantee first seemed to be full of promise, but now it is beginning to seem it’s just full of promises. I’d really like to see the European Parliament show what has been done with the €6 billion it ring-fenced last year.

2. The European Parliament should do more to bring EU politics down to normal EU citizens. I think they should develop straightforward, youth-friendly content to keep the electorate informed on their work.

3. The European Parliament should try to develop the Erasmus project so it is more accessible for students who cannot access grants or engage in it through their own finances.

Aaron Murphy, 18; Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, Dublin

Things my local council should prioritise after the elections:

1. Make the public aware if there is a free clinic available.

2. Listen to what people have to say and follow up.

3. Councillors should listen to the people and not just their party’s views. Party leaders should allow this.

Things the European Parliament should prioritise after the elections:

1. It needs to make people aware of what the European Parliament does.

2. Listen to what the people have to say because parliamentarians are the voice of the people.

3. Make the public aware of what happens at European Parliament meetings. As an 18-year-old I find a lack of information for myself and people of my age.

Not everyone would be as interested as I am when it comes to voting because I am a member of Dublin City Comhairle na nÓg and I am interested in politics.

Mollie MacGinty and Aaron Murphy are in Comhairle na nÓg; Rob O’Donnell and Joanna Siewierska are in Youth Work Ireland and the Irish Second-level Students’ Union; and Gareth Gregan and Laura Gaynor write for SpunOut.ie. Their local electoral region and European Parliament constituency are given after each name.