Youth engagement in politics


Sir, – I write in response to Harry Higgins’s article “Retweeting an article about rent control is not youth engagement in politics” (Opinion & Analysis, March 7th). I find Mr Higgins’s assessment of young Irish voters condescending, cynical and inaccurate.

There is much to be said for the grassroots political movements of the US. However, we should be wary of aspiring to the American standard. In that country, increasingly, political identity is everything. Throughout the ongoing Democratic Party caucuses, it has been common for young Americans (and, indeed, their parents) to weep when their chosen candidate drops out of the race, and bully or abuse anyone who supports another. There, the high level of political involvement of many young people is not an awakening to the power of politics, but a frustrated dive into the dogma of political identity.

What Mr Higgins views as Irish young people’s relative apathy might instead be seen as a level of detachment which is beneficial to us. By avoiding the pitfalls of such devout attachment to parties and candidates, we protect our objectivity and maintain our ability to make informed decisions.

Mr Higgins paints young people’s recent voting turnout as a pied-piping into the arms of a political party which we mistakenly believe to represent our interests. I disagree. Young voters should be credited for their pragmatic understanding of the political process. Instead of rallying en masse behind one personality or viewpoint, we assessed the best way to disrupt the current politics.

We did not, as Mr Higgins fancifully suggests, “knock on doors in Roscommon for six months”.

Rather, we sought to maximise our chances of shifting policy towards the issues of greatest importance to us, and to do so we used the most tangible method of change granted to us by our political system: we voted. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 1.