The Union of Students in Ireland has urged the Government to consider holding the referendum on equal access to civil marriage before May 1st, as students will be doing their exams in May.
With polls showing that over 90% of students in favour of marriage equality, the Union Students of Ireland (USI) are encouraging that this date be moved to the 24th of April to accommodate the surge of interest by young people in the referendum.
 
Speaking of the issue, USI President, Laura Harmon has said, ‘‘There is a huge risk that this referendum will not pass if we do not facilitate a time where the optimum amount of yes voters can go to the ballot stations. There is a huge level of enthusiasm among the student body to engage with and vote on this issue. The referendum on divorce in 1995 passed by just 9,114 votes – the same number of people attending a medium sized college." 
 
“We cannot afford to become complacent with this issue and we must harness the support base that is already there by facilitating a suitable date for their votes to be secured. USI is committed to campaigning and mobilising students to vote, but this will be a much harder task when students are in exam halls and libraries. We want to help the Government get this issue over the line,’’ she added.
 
It seems the hard work of student unions pre-registration campaigns in colleges across the country will be lost if many students are unable to vote on the day. Maynooth Student Union Welfare Officer, Síona Cahill, is an active participant in the promotion of the marriage referendum.

"With the unique #makegrátthelaw campaign being launched here as the brainchild of Maynooth students, our university students have had a big part to play in the national debate on marriage equality and there is a fierce appetite here on campus in the lead-up to the referendum for this to be successfully pulled through," she said.
 
Her creation of Marriage Equality Action Squad (MEAS) is, “for the simple reason that 'meas' means 'respect' as Gaeilge, and that's exactly what this referendum is about achieving," she explains.
 
The USI has full support from Maynooth Student Union in regards to changing the voting date of the referendum. Along with other colleges across the country there is a huge concern for the implications that this might have on the outcome. Students may not be able to travel to polling stations in the midst of examinations.

Síona continues, "Our stake here is that students have a right to have their voices heard in the upcoming referendum, a point in time that I have no doubt we will look back on and say we were part of shaping modern discourse. We were part of a movement for change and for recognition of marginalised groups in our society that started long before us."
 
"This referendum will attempt to highlight a plethora of concerns and will more than likely smudge others. We are looking at marriage equality an institutional-level change, which would contribute significantly we believe, in the trickle-down way in which we treat all our citizens, regardless of what gender they fall in love with,” she adds.
 
As well as being a huge turning point in history for Ireland, Siona Cahill points out that this is a difficult time for young people who are gay or bisexual or who may not have come out to friends and family. MSU's Welfare Officer urges students to seek out available services to help them through a troubling time.

"Everyone one of us has a commitment to our closest friends, and even to those we don't know: be an ally, and be the change. Make sure that the resources available on your college campus are utilised, go to your welfare officer for a chat, or seek out college counselling. Talk to a friend."
 
Now that this case has been presented, we can only wait and see if the students vote will be seriously considered when deciding on a date.

Photo: Union of Students in Ireland/ Facebook