Quinton O’Reilly gets the opinions of the main UCD party leaders about the upcoming election and their reaction.
Having suffered the biggest drop in voting preference from 17 to 5 per cent. The chairman of UCD Kevin Barry Cumman, Ciaran Murphy, was disappointed but remained philosophical about the party’s future. “I think a stint in opposition and fighting the next election as the opposition party will see Fianna Fail bring a lot more young people into the fold, I think that’s the only way to go forward,” said Murphy.
While he’s not expecting Fianna Fáil to remain in government post election, Murphy does hope it will correct how politicians represent themselves and the country. “I think politics needs to step up a gear, it needs to start debating the issues honestly,” stated Murphy. Personality politics [has been around] for a long time say from Lemass onwards, I suppose Haughy and Bertie were some of the main culprits…[but] it’s become a problem where the message is getting people to listen to the 30 second sound bytes produced every day.”
Murphy biggest wish that this election will bring about greater transparency through debates similar to what Fianna Fáil leader, Michael Martin, proposed last week. Murphy mentioned that Labour are also looking for an honest debate which he “appreciate[s] if that’s what they’re willing to do,” but ultimately hopes that the events of the last few months will bring about a fresh approach by all.
I hope there will be proper debates around it,” said Murphy. “Not even televised debates but parties not attacking each other, just putting out their stalls and saying ‘this is what we have to offer, this is what the other parties have to offer, make an informed choice.’
If we start looking towards the future as to what can be done, I think that’s the only way we can move forward.”
Being the second highest party of choice (joint with Independents/others) at 20 per cent, the Chairwoman of UCD Young Fine Gael, Noreen Mimnagh-Flemming, was confident that the party could achieve a higher increase of popularity among voters over the coming weeks. She referred to the errors made by the current government as why people were looking for change.
“Over the past thirteen years Fianna Fail and their respective coalition partners have made some astronomically poor decisions relating to all aspects of society, not just in fiscal matters,” said Mimnagh-Flemming. “We went from a surplus budget to a deficit that is inexcusable. It’s understandable why people feel let down and don’t trust the judgement of politicians in general.”
For the build-up towards March, Mimnagh-Flemming points towards the younger generation as the spearhead for this change, not only as voters but as politicians too.
“There are several young councillors running for Fine Gael across the country. Simon Harris in Wicklow, Liam Quinn in Laois-Offaly, Pa O’Driscoll in Cork and Catherine Yore in Meath West. Each of these candidates is under 30,” she explains. “Real change is needed in Leinster House and I am of the belief that voters will now actually read political manifestos and will vote for a political party that has genuine policy on issues such as health care and political reform.”
Mimnagh-Flemming strongly believes that Ireland’s future prospects are bright but stresses that “people will have to vote for change in order to achieve it.”
“The young people of this country should not have to literally pay for the mistakes made by an incompetent government who in recent times seem more concerned about their party rather than the country,” she stated.
However she warned those who weren’t considering voting in the election that “your future is ultimately in your hands. If you don’t vote, you instantly give up your right to have a political opinion.”
Having the biggest increase of voting preference from 12 to 24 per cent, the chairwoman of UCD Labour Youth, Aisling Molloy, said that she was “absolutely delighted” with the results.
“I think that the election will bring positive change and the parties that I hope that will get in, will get in, and be able to make a change,” said Molloy. “But I think that people need to recognise that it will be a process that will take an awful lot of gradual steps and lot of work…to reach the top in the coming years.”
Molloy noticed a change in people attributing more importance towards politics in general saying that “I think one of the few positive effects of this is that people are starting to realise just how much of an effect politics can have on their lives, and just how important it is that they take an active role in changing it for the better.”
When told that 88 per cent said that they felt let down and didn’t trust the judgement of politicians, Molloy expressed disappointment at this trend. “The sad thing about it is that we’ve all been cornered with the same brush just because of the mistakes of a minority,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me but it does sadden me that that is the case”
She believes that most voters will approach the election with caution and will look for “the people who are least corrupt and who are going to be the most financially honest.”
But overall, Molloy sees her party as the one that can take the country forward and stated that “I think that it would be better to keep the party that has the best national interest at heart and the party that represents that for all of us. I am certain that that is the Labour Party that represents that for all of us.”
The only other party to experience a drop in vote preference from 6 to 4 per cent, chairperson for UCD Young Greens, Conor Murphy, didn’t believe there would be a severe change in voting saying that “obviously the green vote will be down but there’s a core voters that I think will support [us]…but I don’t think we’ll be absolutely wiped out, I hope not anyway.”
Regarding the other political parties running, Murphy felt that “there’s a difference in saying you like something and actually going and voting for it… I’m not sure what will turn out on the day. I wish it would be more drastic for the left but I don’t think it will be.”
Murphy believes that the build up to the election will experience a greater change in how voters and politicians prepare for 11th March.
“The thing about a recession is that it challenges the status quo. In the last election and even the election before that everyone, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour were all saying pretty much the exact same centre policies,” explained Murphy. “So a recession gives politicians the chance to say what they actually feel giving a different point of view…[and] it’s a necessity that young politicians are coming up.”
Regarding students’ interest in the election. Murphy said that he hadn’t seen an increase in awareness saying that “people have always liked quick answers” to help decide who to vote for. His hope is that those students who are looking for change will hold onto those same values for elections long after this one has passed.
“Students have been left to centre and socialist since the 1960s and you kind of wonder where all those students go to when they grow up,” says Murphy. “I suppose that when in these recessionary times, I hope students, as they go forward, could hopefully hold onto the more socialist ideals [for future elections].”
Q1 Will you be voting in the upcoming general election?
Don’t know: 2%
Q2 Do you feel let down by politicians?
Q3 Would you like to see more young politicians?
Yes: 85 %
No: 15 %
Q4 Do you trust politicians’ judgement?
Yes: 12 %
No: 88 %
Q5 Do you feel the outcome of the general election will have a positive or negative effect on Ireland’s future.
Yes: 72 %
No: 18 %
Don’t know: 10%
Q6 Financial troubles more or less likely to vote?
Yes: 81 %
No: 19 %
Q7 Who did you vote for?
Green Party: 6%
Progressive Democrats: 3%
Sinn Fein: 4%
Didn’t vote: 34%
Q8 Who will you vote for?
Labour: 24 %
Green Party: 4 %
Sinn Fein: 11%
Q9 How much do you blame Fianna Fail for the Ireland’s current financial predicament?
Very much so: 39%
To some extent: 35 %
Not at all: 3%
Q10 How politically engaged are you?
Very politically engaged: 12%
Politically engaged: 27%
Average: 33 %
Not at all: 11%