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USI Warns a May Date for Marriage Equality Referendum Will Harm Student Turnout

The date for the upcoming and much anticipated Marriage Equality referendum has been signalled for May 2015, cialis and already the debate as to what exact day to hold the referendum is being contested. The precise date this government chooses to open the voting could be a crucial factor in the referendums result, as the date of polling will be particularly relevant to the student vote, and the overall turnout of young eligible voters.

 

The Union of Students in Ireland and other campaigners for a Yes vote fear a conflict of interests in May between students’ end of term exams and the equality referendum, resulting in the hollowing out of the projected student turnout. The USI have come out and lobbied for the referendum to be held in April, or at the very least early May. The day of the week the referendum is held will also influence the student vote, as a mid-week referendum would unfairly disadvantage students who are registered to vote in their home constituency yet live away from home during the college term. The nuances of what exact date the referendum will be held will not deter the students who feel passionately about this issue and are emphatic in voting. However a polling day that is unfairly obstructive to students could have an influence over the bulk of students that agree with a Yes vote, but are less determined to get out and vote. Therefore the USI have advocated Friday the 1st of May as a potential polling day, which would ensure a strong and proportional level of student participation and turnout.

 

The student demographic will be a big decider in the sway of the referendum’s result. As indicated; the turnout of the traditionally unreliable or politically-apathetic student vote is prone to influence from mitigating factors. Yet the Yes campaign will be relying on a strong student turnout to ensure victory. Recent Irish Times polls have indicated the level of support for the Yes campaign to rest around 70%. The level of student support is higher still, with an estimated 90% in favour of a Yes result. Albeit suggesting a walk-over, opinion polls can have an effect of spreading complacency over a campaign. The reliability of long-term opinion polls is also often questionable, with the result of the referendum itself predicted to be much closer.

 

The debate surrounding the Marriage Equality vote is only expected to begin to heat up in the coming months, after the formal announcement of the exact date for the referendum. So far only the Yes side have been outspoken in their endeavours under the rainbow umbrella of the YesEquality campaign. Campaigners for a No vote are expected to mobilise under the Catholic Church and other conservative groups. However, the debate is expected to be more tempered and reasoned, and less bitterly divisive than previous moral-issue referendums like abortion and divorce.

 

The political parties themselves have thus far been absent from the fray, although in the run-up to May their stances are all likely to be closely scrutinized. There appears to be a general consensus for favouring a Yes vote across the Dáil chamber. The Labour Party has been credited with tabling the referendum and will hold it up as a positive from their efforts in government. Sinn Fein have also made their support for the Yes campaign known, along with the smaller radical left parties who espouse a liberal social agenda. The more conservative stalwarts Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have been lukewarm in their decision to also support the Yes vote, but done so nonetheless. The fact that the civil marriage referendum has not been made into a party political issue will in fact aid a legitimate result. Labour’s toxic reputation might do more harm than good if they loudly run under the Yes banner. Similarly if Fine Gael attempt to capitalise on supporting civil marriage equality for political gain, the growing anti-government sentiment to Ireland’s current political climate could see the referendum being hijacked in order to punish the current government. Therefore to allow the purity of the question itself to be the stand-alone issue in front of voters come May, party politics, and the government parties in particular must take a backseat.

 

The marriage equality referendum is the next major issue in Ireland’s changing moral and political narrative, and it is crucial that the voice of students who have been so vocal in the build-up to this referendum, are heard and not excluded. The holding of this national debate, and in particular the specific date of voting – must be as open and inclusive to all.

By Jack Power

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