Ireland could change too!

I think a round of applause is needed. Fighting the cliche of apathy, young voters in America were determined to have their voices heard last week when record numbers of them came out to vote.

Across America, young voters manned phones for presidental candidates fighting for votes. The pundits predicted that the youth would play a key role in determining the outcome of the US presidential election, while analysts predicted that they would overwhelmingly favour Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain.

Some 44 million young people between the ages of 19 and 29 were eligible to vote.

And it wasn’t just passionate students or political-savvy workers who were exercising their right to vote last week. Those beautiful young people of Hollywood gleefully jumped on the bandwagon too. It wasn’t just about pushing people to vote for their chosen candidate, but more simply, and perhaps more honestly, to remind them that they too have a voice that can be heard.

Young actors and singers across the nation went on major publicity drives, backing such campaigns as Vote or Die and Rock the Vote, in a bid to grab the attention of their fans and set a good example for their peers to follow.

Change is refreshing, and in many cases desperately needed. Not just in America, but the world over. Watching the students of AIT protest during the week made me feel hopeful, and slightly jealous (there was no protesting to be done when I was in college, unless you were a member of the Socialist Workers party that is! ).

The Government, it would appear, has failed them. This year’s early Budget has left their pockets empty. Increasing registration fees for third level by 67 per cent is more weight upon many shoulders. Not just on those of the students themselves but on their parents’ as well.

I know it can be hard to predict how a new Government will treat different parts of society - and let’s face it, this Government is still young - but even before the general election I don’t think there was any fear that the Government’s main aim was to help students. Again and again we see how education issues are ignored, for all levels.

But it doesn’t always have to be like that. Just as young Americans raised their voices and were heard, the young people of Ireland can do the same.

The local elections are only around the corner, and are the perfect opportunity to make politicians listen to you. Everyone is entitled to vote, but you must register with your local authority before November 25.

Don’t let this opportunity slip away. You can protest all you want, but don’t think you’ll be taken seriously if you don’t act on voting day. Especially in Athlone, where there are so many students worried about the re-introduction of fees.

So call Westmeath County Council, or log on to their website, and make sure you’re registered to vote. And more importantly, let your local representatives know that you’re going to vote, and that you want change.


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