At some point we will all have heard someone say something along the lines of “there’s no point in voting”.

At some point we will all have heard someone say something along the lines of “there’s no point in voting”, and to be perfectly honest it’s a belief that can be fairly well substantiated.

An acutely relevant example of this may be that of the 2010 General Election, when Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats made a personal vow that his would be the party to re-establish trust between people and politics. Later when he became Deputy Prime Minister and his party began playing its part in our current coalition Westminster government he found himself reneging on a manifesto pledge not to raise tuition fees.

Instances like these are widely used to explain why people don’t see any value in voting. However, it’s important to look at the broader picture.

Democratic participation hasn’t just taken a slump in local and national politics. In Students’ Union elections and ballots by trade unions, turnout isn’t exactly inspiring.

When sections of the population are more likely to pay to vote to see their favourite act win the X Factor than they are to visit a polling station to decide on the composition of the next Westminster Government, there’s clearly a much bigger issue to tackle.

For some, this means ensuring that citizenship education is much more developed and engrained within the curriculum from an early age. For others it’s about transparency, accountability and our elected representatives being placed in an environment where their call to action is their desire to serve the public..

If we reflect on some of the more recent movements within world politics, we can clearly see that when citizens are at least given a sense of control over their own destination then they are more likely to actively participate in the democratic process. The clearest example of this can be seen in the recent Scottish Independence referendum. A political structure that allows the average citizen to play their role in reclaiming ownership of the public sphere is central to a vibrant and healthy democracy.

As part of the inaugural Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics, NUS-USI will be hosting an interactive workshop to provide a space to initiate discussion about the issues that we can collectively tackle to ensure our society is one which has faith in our politicians, but also trust in our political systems.

Why don’t you join us on 10 March at 12.00pm in the Black Box? It’s a free event and you will be made very welcome.

Fergal McFerren, NUS-USI

We’ll be in touch.