Young people hit out at Northern Ireland’s democratic deficit
A group of young people have voiced frustration and anger at the “democratic deficit” in Northern Ireland.
The Our Future, Our Choice NI group visited Queen’s University in Belfast before going on to Stormont, the home of Northern Ireland’s non-functioning government.
They condemned the continued suspension of powersharing government at Stormont, and voiced support for a people’s vote over how the UK leaves the European Union.
The Northern Ireland Assembly and executive have been in suspension for almost two years following a breakdown in relations between the two largest parties, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein.
The young people were met on Friday by SDLP MLA Claire Hanna before going inside the building to meet a number of other parties.
Aron Hughes, 17, from west Belfast, said young people in Northern Ireland are frustrated at their lack of representation.
“We are here at Stormont today to show that young people in Northern Ireland have a democratic deficit, we don’t have an executive, we have no Stormont, up in that building behind us there are no politicians making decisions for us,” he said.
“The only representation we have is from 18 MPs, and 17 of them either misrepresent us or unrepresent us. The DUP are on the hard side of Brexit whereas Northern Ireland did vote to Remain, while Sinn Fein don’t take their seats, so we are severely underrepresented.
“Young people need representation. Many young people here can’t vote, I can vote because I am 17, so where does my representation come from?
“We are here today to engage with some politicians who still come for meetings here and to tell them we want a people’s vote.”
Doire Finn, 23, from Newry, said the young people of Northern Ireland deserve to have their voices heard.
“What we are seeing now going through the House of Commons in terms of Brexit is a complete disaster and we believe that it should go back to the people to make a decision on what way their future is going to be shaped,” she said.
“On top of that, we are obviously here at Stormont today where our government hasn’t been sitting for nearly 700 days, and we are making a protest at them to say that the Scottish devolved government and the Welsh devolved government have spent hours and hours debating and our government hasn’t done anything like that for us.
“So we want to make the point that we would like to have our voices heard by the people who are meant to be working in there (Stormont).”