In the midst of the seemingly never-ending Brexit situation, it seems impossible to not ponder Ireland’s place in the EU. Since receiving membership in the then EEC in 1973, our humble country has developed farther than those around at the time could have imagined. We possess one of the most powerful passports in the world and can travel and work freely throughout Europe. Using UCC as an example, we can go to lectures and converse with people from all over Europe thanks to our membership in the EU. It’s surprising, then, that we have some of the poorest voter turnouts in the European Union.
The elections coming up on the 24th of May are important for us in many ways. They will be the first elections held in a post-Brexit Europe, and the representatives elected will have the last word on Britain’s exit from Europe and how it will affect us in Ireland, especially at the border. We have shown in the past that the Irish are passionate voters. Turnouts at the polling stations for both the Marriage and 8th amendment referendums were some of the highest on record. This passion is equally as important for these elections, as we deserve our say in today’s Europe, in a political climate defined by populist politics and a rise in extreme right-wing parties. Jack Maloney, an EU representative in Dublin, expressed how he felt about the issue in a recent correspondence we had:
“European Politics is very important not only because upwards of 70% of our laws are made in Brussels/Strasbourg but because it presents a small country like Ireland with a tremendous opportunity to have an impact on global issues such as climate change and global peace. In the 21st century there are two types of countries in Europe, small countries and countries who do not know yet that they are small. Global challenges have arisen that need European solutions!”
The ‘This Time I’m Voting’ campaign aims to boost voter turnouts by spreading awareness of just how much the EU Parliament has in our day-to-day lives. The decisions made in Brussels affect everything from “car parks to surfing”, so it’s important for as many people to be aware that we have a say in that too. The goal of the volunteer-based, apolitical campaign is to reach 1,000,000 signatures from voters committing to vote on the 24th of May on their website. The true extent of what we as voters and EU citizens have the right to vote on can be found on the campaign’s website, thistimeimvoting.eu. There, you can also keep up to date on campaign events in Ireland.
It may not feel as immediate or as close to home as some of the other recent elections that our country has seen in recent years, but the elections taking place on May 24th cannot be faced with apathy. We need to be tackling European issues with the same tenacity with which we approach issues in Ireland. This time, we should all be voting.