Why we owe a debt of gratitude to Millennials

Written by Tara Mulvany - June 2018

Millennials are possibly one of the most studied and talked about of all the generations.  Having lived their lives immersed in digital technology, they’ve grown up digesting and assimilating mass quantities of information at a time. While being characterised by marketers as ‘causal’ and ‘entrepreneurial’, they’ve also been branded as ‘special, over-educated, selfie-lovers.’

But last Friday, and in the months that preceded the Irish referendum on the 8th Amendment, this over-analysed and often derided generation proved their mettle. What’s more, the generalisations made against them, were the very things that helped to bring about what An Taoiseach described as ‘a quiet revolution.’

Five days before the vote, figures received by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NCYI) from 14 city and county councils across the country, indicated that up to 125,000 had registered to vote for the first time. This raised the rate of eligible voters significantly from the 2016 general election and the 2015 marriage equality referendum.

Perhaps less shackled by stigma and certainly more connected to the digital stage, this generation used every device in the toolbox to spread their message. From videos to images, to slogans, to badges, to t-shirts, to hashtags, to profile overlays, and personal stories shared post by post on platforms like the In Her Shoes Facebook page.

The #HometoVote hashtag trended worldwide as emotional images of young expats coming home to vote were shared across social platforms, causing news organisations across the world to report on their efforts.

But, despite this, the outcome of the referendum continued to be impossible to predict right up until the night of the vote, when the RTE and Irish Times exit polls revealed a clear majority. The responsibility on national broadcasters and print media to equally present the views of both sides in order to maintain a balanced and robust debate had made it difficult to gauge the real temperature of the nation.

In the final count, the Yes vote was remarkably high among the millennial cohort with a whopping 87.6% among 18-24 and 84.6% among 25-34 year olds. What is equally as remarkable is that, at the age of 31, Simon Harris, the Health Minister now charged with acting on the will of the people to Repeal the 8th, is also part of this demographic.

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