Social Democrats warn opponents: ‘Beware the young voter’

Party claims Coalition has created two-tier society, loading brunt of austerity on youth

Dublin Mid-West candidate Anne Marie McNally: “We’re the first generation who can’t afford to own their own home.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Dublin Mid-West candidate Anne Marie McNally: “We’re the first generation who can’t afford to own their own home.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Traditional parties need to “beware the young voter”, Social Democrats candidates have warned as they launched their youth manifesto.

The party claims the Government has created a two-tier society where young people have taken the brunt of cuts and austerity measures.

Dublin Mid-West candidate Anne Marie McNally said many young people were back living with their parents. “We’re the first generation who can’t afford to own their own home,” she said. “Owning a house has become an aspiration rather than an achievable dream.”

She said young people were mobilised like never before, in part because of the marriage equality referendum, but “it’s more so the anger they’re feeling towards the way they’ve been abandoned and pretty much disrespected by the political establishment in Ireland”. She said the average age of canvassers on her team was 26 and they came forward through Twitter and university groups.

Dublin Central candidate Gary Gannon said traditional parties should “beware the young voter, but also beware the young activist, the young campaigner and the people who are no longer prepared to put up with the status quo and are absolutely committed to making a difference”.

He said when he canvassed during the local elections he was accompanied only by some family members and friends. He had 37 people canvassing for him last weekend, the majority of them in their 20s.

College fees

The party said it had the highest proportion of candidates under 35 and 10 of its 14 candidates are 40 or younger and one-third, about 1.5 million, of the population is under 25.

President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Kevin Donoghue, speaking at the launch said new research by Thinkhouse youth communications agency had shown 83 per cent of young people intended to vote in the election. And 60 per cent of those planning to vote intended to support non-traditional parties.

Mr Gannon, who said he got into Trinity College on the access programme, reiterated the party’s plan to cut college registration fees from €3,000 to €2,000, which he said was realistic in the short term and to eventually move to a public funding model.

He criticised the Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) grant system for college education. Mr Gannon said it was not working because Dublin Central received the lowest level of Susi grants in the country, despite being one of the most deprived constituencies.

He said the system needed to be reorganised, with reduced paperwork, and he called for the expansion of access programmes which he said “have an extraordinary track record in widening demographic access to university education”.

Ms McNally said that repealing the Eighth Amendment on abortion was an issue among young people as well as housing and climate change. The party was committed to the introduction of a living wage and would ban zero-hour contracts.