As I'm sure the readers of IrishCentral are aware, Ireland is all talk about the upcoming elections at the moment.
What's different to recent years, though, is that there's also a strong level of interest from the traditionally apathetic student voting bloc.
Let me be honest: I'm no great follower or fan of Irish politics, at least in the dismal recent times, but my curiosity and interest have certainly been piqued in the run-up to this election by the severity of our current situation and the importance that the upcoming vote holds for us. It's a time as a country that we simply cannot afford to be apathetic or disinterested.
The reasons are too many to list. As has been mentioned countless times in this blog, Ireland is in the grip of an unprecedented emigration endemic. For want of jobs at home, students are (once more) being forced to foreign shores to escape the desperate plight in Ireland. College students in particular have also seen the increase of tuition fees, the slashing of several grant payments, and recently a commitment (which has been only tepidly reneged upon) to eventually eliminate the final year pay of nursing students who are made work practically the same hours as their full-time counterparts.
Given that this and more is what us students are facing into, it's imperative that we elect a government that shows a strong commitment to protecting our interests in higher level education and undoing some of the wrongs that have been mentioned. Hence, I think, the strong interest from the traditionally apathetic student voting bloc.
Despite that interest, though, I've read a few headlines that have almost convinced me to give up on the whole show again.
One such headline was yesterday's announcement from Sinn Fein that they would offer free education to every man, woman, and child in Ireland from primary school right up to college. You may well wonder what I could possibly dislike about this plan. In two words it's patently unrealistic. The way this magic pill is supposed to work, the brainchild of a political party operating out of offices owned by a convicted criminal, is to introduce a third tax band on the ultra-rich to finance this elaborate welfare state.
This, I think, is several steps too far. Taxes have already spiralled drastically, and simply because someone is well off doesn't mean they should fund the education of the less well off. It's the principle of equity on steroids, which isn't necessarily a good thing; and ultimately it's the beneficiaries of third level education who should be footing the bill, not some random rich guy who's already paying tax at the higher level... isn't that enough?
Sinn Fein may well be a marginal and extreme example to take, but there have been several other moments that students have surely raised their eyebrows at some of the drastic measures being tabled by several of the main political parties.
Mostly I think the educational policies are fairly good, though. Fine Gael's stance on Irish, which I've already supported on this forum will be highly divisive. They have some well-rounded policies and they seem to have been well thought out. Fianna Fail I think have less on offer.
Overall I'm glad to report that Irish students have a drive to put the government that will best look after their needs in power, but unrealistic promises such as Sinn Fein's will never hold much appeal.