I am interested in politics but when the majority of young people hear the word 'Politics' they think of people over 40 making decisions which affect the country and how it is run. These young people also believe there is no place for young people in Politics. They are wrong! There are many ways young people can get involved in politics.
I believe starting or signing a petition is a crucial way for young people to get an issue that is important to them raised. If the petition gets a lot of signatures it will show politicians that the people they represent want this issue progressed (whatever the issue). I know how crucial petitions are because I have signed many petitions which have brought change. Petitions are great for young people to show their views on a matter as there is no age requirement to sign a petition. It could be something small in your area e.g. fixing street lights in your village or something big on a national scale e.g. getting the voting age lowered to 16.
If you believe that something needs to change in your area, fight for change. Be the voice for people who will not fight. My youth council (the North West Ministry of Youth) is working with a group who started a petition to get a Derry skate park. It shows young people can have an impact in decision making in their local area as the council are going to discuss the idea of the skate park.
I know young people who would struggle to name their local councillors, MLAs and MP let alone contact one of their elected representatives about a problem they have. This shows the disconnect between young people and the politicians which needs addressed. How can young people feel they can make change when they don’t know the decision makers? As a person who is into politics I can name all my elected representatives and it would not bother me if I had to write to my local representatives if I want their help to advance an issue I am passionate about. I believe that young people should contact their elected representatives if they have a problem that they need help with or if they want support for a campaign.
If young people don’t feel confident talking to a local councillor, MLA or MP, they always have the option of talking to a Youth Councillor from your local youth council or your Member of the UK Youth Parliament (MYP). I know some young people find talking to adults can be daunting so why not talk to someone your own age who can help you with an issue and understands the problems of young people today. I know as a youth councillor I am willing to help any young person with any issue as I got into politics to help people and that is what our elected representatives got into politics for; to help their constituents.
If you want to help young people in your area you can by becoming a youth councillor within your local youth council. I joined my local council, the North West Ministry of Youth (which covers the Derry City and Strabane District Council area), to help the young people in my area with problems that they face e.g. mental health. I am running in the UK Youth Parliament election to become the MYP for West Tyrone. I am hoping to become an MYP to bring change for the young people of West Tyrone.
A youth council is a great way to be introduced into politics. I joined the North West Ministry of Youth when it was formed which was one of best things I could have done, I have learnt new skills and developed old skills such as team work, time management and problem solving. The youth council has made me more confident when speaking with my elected representatives and approaching them to get their support for campaigns I am running, such as improving floodlight facilities in pitches in rural towns and villages. Since I joined the Ministry of Youth I have made friends and we have gone on residentials to Newcastle Co. Down and Cardiff, Wales. I made friends with youth councillors and MYPs from Wales. They have been MYPs and youth councillors for years so I learned a lot from my trip to Wales. I would encourage anyone interested in politics to join a youth council as you learn new skills, make new friends and affect changes in your local area.
A great way of getting involved in politics is by joining a political party. You can hopefully help this political party that you support to either get their representatives elected or into power. It can help you to develop your confidence and you can work with elected representatives who can help you achieve change for young people. I am not a member of any political party but some of my friends are members of political parties and they love it.
I believe young people can have a massive impact on politics and if young people look hard enough they will find that there is a place for them in politics. Age does not matter, getting involved in politics does not start when you turn 18 and can vote, it starts when you believe that change is needed and you are willing to do something about it: it can be as simple as signing a petition, join a political party, join a youth council or stand for election to become a MYP. All that matters is that you do something for the better!
Danny Walsh is 17 years old and is from Strabane. He is currently attending Holy Cross College where he studies History, Politics and Sport. He wants to study History and Politics at University.