Representatives of the youth wings of Irish political parties battled it out in a Politics Society panel on Friday evening. The event was chaired by society head India Meade, with the six speakers discussing the importance of political activism in general, as well the values and ideologies advocated by their own individual parties.
The first speaker, Feidhlim Mac Róibín from Trinity Fianna Fáil, highlighted the importance of political activism for the development of political parties, stating that “a political party cannot survive without its political activists.” Mac Róibín stated that he believed that the political parties had become increasingly “professionalised.” In response, he was keen to emphasise that Fianna Fáil is more than just a political party, it is as a movement of people “united for change in local communities.”
Ollie Wray represented Trinity Young Fine Gael at the event. He was eager to emphasise the independence of the group from the Fine Gael larger party. “I’m not a spokesman for the party,” he said. “I disagree with a lot of what comes forward.” He noted that the Trinity branch of Young Fine Gael voted for abortion on demand in 2012, in contrast to any Fine Gael policy at the time.
Killian O’ Sullivan spoke for Trinity Labour, who aim to “be the most active political group on campus this year” by hosting weekly events and active campaigning in the coming months. O’Sullivan highlighted that for the last 45 years, they have been “the main left-wing group in Trinity College.” This year, the society has chosen “demanding equality” as its theme. O’Sullivan believes that this is not only “at the core” of Labour’s principles and beliefs, but is also “a basis for social justice and democracy.”
Samuel Mardirosian was the representative for the Pirate Party. The party focuses on a specific set of issues particularly copyright laws, patents and digital rights management. Mardirosian stated that current copyright laws are “entrenched in 19th century ideas of intellectual property” and are outdated in the internet age. Furthermore, the Pirate Party believes in informing internet-users about information privacy. Mardirosian commented, “Whenever we use something like Google or Facebook we are not using a free service, we are part of a transaction. We’re giving them our information and they are giving us a service.”
Rob O’Riain represented Sinn Féin at the event. He spoke about the aims of the party and emphasised that the Trinity College branch is very open to new ideas, as long as they are generally in keeping with the party policies. O’Riain believed that one important difference between Sinn Féin and the other parties represented at the event is that the party is currently in the Northern Executive and in Dáil Éireann. He also mentioned Jonathan Graham, a Trinity student who was recently elected as a Sinn Féin councillor for Clondalkin. O’Riain believed that this is very important for Sinn Féin members in Trinity as Graham provides a link to everyday politics outside the college.
The final speaker was Rory O’Neil from Socialist Workers Student Society (SWSS), currently the only radical left society on campus. When addressing the central question of the event ‘why join a political party?’ O’Neil was quick to state “if it’s a mainstream party, don’t bother.” “All the mainstream parties follow essentially the same agenda,” he continued. O’Neil noted that the party’s advocacy of ‘revolutionary socialism’ was the key difference between SWSS and the political mainstream. He stated that the party’s fundamental aim was the extension of power to the masses.
The high voter turn-out for the Scottish independence referendum was mentioned by several representatives and in spite of party differences, the importance of political engagement and youth activism was emphasised throughout the event. As Killian O’Sullivan of Trinity Labour summarised, “political participation is what democracy is all about.”