Over 100 people attended a lively debate at Waterford Institute of Technology last Friday between five candidates for the European Parliament elections in May.
Brexit, neutrality and the future of Europe were some of the main themes as the candidates' answered questions from a mix of students and members of the public at the event held at the institute’s main campus on the Cork Road.
Sitting MEPs Deirdre Clune of Fine Gael and Liadh Ni Riada of Sinn Fein, as well as Fianna Fail’s Malcolm Byrne, Senator Grace O'Sullivan of the Green Party and Adrienne Wallace of People Before Profit, debated for more than an hour and a half on a wide range of issues at a pivotal time for the future direction of the European Union.
As moderator, Gerry Arthurs, Lecturer in International Relations and Politics at WIT cautioned that “under 25s are the least likely demographic group to vote in EP elections, as older people vote by a margin of 25% more.”
He pointed out that “the youth vote is critically important and we must do everything we can to make sure that they vote, that their voice is heard in Europe. Had under 25s voted in the Brexit referendum, the result would most likely have been different”.
Gerry went on to say, “At a time of political and economic uncertainty brought on by the Brexit fiasco and as the British parties and parliamentary system tears itself apart, the European Union has never been more important for Ireland. The EU has stood by us and it’s up to the Irish people, including our youth, to make our vote in Europe count and make more meaningful contributions to the European Union.”