"How can we expect anything other than apathy then from our student population when it comes to politics, when existing governments persist in alienating them with their policies?"
It’s been 56 days since the general election and yet Ireland feels no closer to forming a government than when the nation took to the polls on February 26th.
Little wonder then that the nation has hardly been more apathetic to Irish politics than right now, in particular the youth.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have long been two sides of the same coin; the nation perennially hopping from one to the other based mostly on the failures of who was in government last.
Ireland as a nation has long been crying out for change, an actual viable alternative. However, when it comes to voting, the population consistently sticks to what it knows, afraid of the great unknown of a left wing government.
Cast one look across the pond however and we get a glimpse of what a politician can be: passionate, invigorating and genuinely engaging.
Bernie Sanders may face an uphill struggle to win the nomination of the Democratic party to run for president over Hillary Clinton, but he has succeeded in motivating a generation who for so long are perceived to have little to no interest in their government.
Sanders has become renowned for his passionate rallies, in which he has consistently gone after the wealthiest in American society.
It’s been the cornerstone of his campaign, so much so that rivals have accused it of being ‘a single issue campaign', in which he bombards the top 1%, the most powerful corporations, to pay a higher rate of taxes than the average U.S citizen.
What has perhaps aligned Sanders so much with the youth of America is his stance on tuition fees. He has pledged to make it possible for any American student who wishes to go to college to be able to do so by abolishing tuition fees, cutting student loan interest rates and to stop the federal government from making a profit off of these loans.
Ireland has nowhere near the level of cost for attending university that the U.S or even the UK does. Yet this year Fine Gael proposed the introduction of a similar scheme to them.
This is a loan system that has crippled generations of graduates in the UK with debt for years. A system that inspired protests that bordered on riots throughout England in 2010 when Nick Clegg reneged on his election promise to abolish fees and instead increased them.
It is this kind of policy that has enraged the youth population for years, and while the U.S has one firebrand character fighting to abolish it, Ireland is incredulously drifting towards implementing it.
How can we expect anything other than apathy then from our student population when it comes to politics, when existing governments persist in alienating them with their policies?
There is no Bernie Sanders for Irish students to get behind; nobody who fights for them with such passion and furore as the Vermont senator.
The lesson here, whether Sanders gets elected or not, is how to engage the youth in politics; give them someone with the fire and passion that they can believe in, who will fight for them with conviction.
Ireland could yet hold two elections this year and still not attract the interest that Bernie Sanders has; the key is to learn from him how.