Councillor Patrick Brown Says Young Voters Will Shape The New Northern Ireland

Alliance Party councillor Patrick Brown, the party’s South Down candidate in the Assembly election in May, has launched a campaign which could reverse the trend of apathy amongst young voters.

He aims to encourage the upcoming generation in South Down to shape the future of Northern Ireland by engaging in the democratic process.

The campaign, called ‘Value Your Vote,’ consists of a series of presentations in schools across Newry, Mourne and Down and is an introduction for A-level students to the concept of politics and the importance of voting. Cllr Brown said: “It is non-partisan and encourages those taking part to research each party’s policies before deciding which party most closely matches their own views.

Councillor Patrick Brown
Councillor Patrick Brown has met with students from a number of schools in Down to discuss how to ‘Value Your Vote’.

“To date the presentation has taken place at St. Louis Grammar School in Kilkeel, Shimna Integrated College in Newcastle and the Newry and Banbridge campuses of the Southern Regional College. Around 30 students attended each presentation, with topics ranging from a brief history of suffrage to whether 16-year olds should be given the right to vote.”

Cllr. Brown added that the continuing fall in voter turnout amongst young people motivated him to deliver the ‘Value Your Vote’ campaign. He said:  “It worries me that 45% of people in Northern Ireland don’t vote, and amongst young people that figure is even higher… as much as 55%.

“If they are to choose representatives who will make very important decisions on their behalf, these representatives must reflect the views of the young and of wider society here.

“Unfortunately, our past and current politics have not succeeded in engaging and motivating most of our young people. In my presentations I aim to highlight the fact that politics and the decisions that politicians make affect everyone no matter what, and politicians are far more likely to choose policies which help out groups they know will turnout to vote.”

As a 24-year old ‘young person’, a recent graduate from Sheffield University in International Politics,  Councillor Brown completely understands the frustration felt by the post-Good Friday Agreement generation. Ongoing arguments over the past or a lack of progress on social issues do not represent the views of those who will form the future and raise their families here.

He added: “In the upcoming Assembly election young people born in 1998, the year the Good Friday Agreement was signed, will be able to vote for the first time. How far has Northern Ireland come in those 18 years? I don’t think it’s come far enough.

“There are alternatives to the usual divisive party political bickering which has held us in limbo for so long”, he said. “I believe I can show the young voters that they hold the power in their own hands to mould their own future”.