In 89 days the people of Northern Ireland along with the rest of the UK will go to the polls.
At least some will but on the basis of Electoral Office estimates as many as 100,000 in Northern Ireland could find themselves ineligible to vote because they have not registered.
Some won’t care because they have decided that they want no part in the democratic process yet whether they vote or not, politicians will be elected so by not voting they are still contributing to the process.
For others it may come as a shock that they are excluded. Many of those who have not registered are young people who are turning 18 and would be eligible for the first time.
As someone who on a weekly basis votes on issues which will have an immediate and long term effect on people’s lives it amazes me that so many decide that they don’t want any input into who makes those decisions.
As a public representative I and my party have had direct involvement in drafting many policies and making decisions which were directed specifically to young people.
Students have benefitted from lower university fees as a result of political promises made to oppose fees which would exclude many from university.
Thousands of young people have been able to afford their first home because of money allocated to the co-ownership scheme and agreements reached with local banks regarding mortgages/deposits.
Three hundred unemployed newly qualified teachers found jobs because of the Delivering Social Change Initiative championed by my party.
In the period April 2013 to January 2014 over 32,000 unemployed people were helped to find work, of those 32 per cent (18,000+) were young people aged 18-24.
This was a result of initiatives introduced to deal with the impact of the recession and especially youth unemployment.
Young parents especially have been helped by the 1,500 additional childcare places and funded pre-school places. The United Youth Initiative created 10,000 one-year placements for young people not in education, training or employment. This is only a flavour of the direct impact of political decisions on young voters.
In the next Parliament the influence which Northern Ireland politicians wield could be quite significant if the outcome is as close as the pundits are predicting.
That is why it is important to vote and vote tactically to ensure maximum representation from the only Northern Ireland party which can form a large block at Westminster and will take its seats.
Massive issues will need to be addressed such as: our relationship with the European Union; what will happen to public spending and taxation?; How can we ensure that central government policies do not have a disproportionate effect on regions like Northern Ireland?; How do we react to the threat of Islamic terrorism?; How do we address immigration?; They affect everyone, that is why it is important that people should register to vote. It’s the only way they can have their say on who will speak for them on these issues.