Are you registered to vote? Use Your Voice!

13 May 2024
People in Ireland will be asked to vote in the local and EU elections this June, so this is the time to engage with election candidates and let them know what is important to you and your community.

Writing by Ruby Cooney, AONTAS Education Projects Officer

For the team at AONTAS, a key focus in our new Strategic Plan (2023-2026) is to connect and engage the adult education sector to enable change.

Voting provides an opportunity for people to advocate for change and allows individuals to have influence over policy.

In the run-up to the elections, we have been working to raise awareness of why people should vote, and what’s involved. Recently, myself and our Community Education Officer Lorraine went to the first launch of the National Voter Registration Day held in The Mansion House, Dublin.

National Voter Registration Day is a new initiative created to encourage people to vote, and to get involved in democracy, especially those from minority groups and young people.

Group of people standing in a row, with a pop up that reads National Voter Registration Day
On the 30th April, registrations centres were set up across Ireland to help inform groups of people who tend to be under-represented, and young people across Ireland, about their right to vote and how to register to vote.

We also organised an online event in partnership with EPALE, the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe, about how people can engage with the candidates that are up for election.

This event, “Use Your Voice: How to Engage with Local and EU Candidates” focused on giving attendees the best tools to engage with candidates. This includes an AONTAS Guide for Engaging with Local and European Election Candidates. This is a resource we developed to help people working in the adult education sector to engage with local and European candidates. It is free and available to share and download from our website

Local Elections

At our “Use Your Voice” event, we were joined by Ronan Kennedy, Senior Public Policy Officer from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Ronan is currently part of an advocacy initiative called Rochtain, which works towards democratising how advocacy works, and helping community and voluntary organisations to gain advocacy skills through training.

At our event, Ronan outlined local government structures in Ireland and what areas exactly local councillors have influence on. Ronan encouraged attendees who want to engage with their local candidates to do lots of research on the track record of existing candidates and what they have done for adult education. He suggested to be specific with questions about your local electoral district, budget and the issues that are important to you. He urged people to question new candidates on what their priorities are, what committees they plan to sit on and exactly what influence these committees have.

What Europe Does for Us

Also at our “Use Your Voice” event was Jemma Lee, Senior Support and Development Officer in Léargas, who spoke about the impact European developments have on Ireland and adult education.

Jemma suggested people become familiar with what Europe provides for Ireland, particularly with adult education such as funded opportunities for learners and educators to develop.

Jemma highlighted the European Pillar of Social Rights that aims for a strong social Europe that is fair, inclusive, and full of opportunity. The first social right outlined is education, training, and lifelong learning, meaning everyone has the right to good education and training throughout their whole life.

The European Commission has concrete initiatives to deliver on these rights, which demonstrates that they are serious about ensuring quality education for adult learners.

Although candidates running for European elections in Ireland might not directly change how adult and community education works nationally or regionally, it is still important to engage with these candidates so we can secure sustainable funding and resources for adult and community education.

This “Use Your Voice” event was part of AONTAS' 2024-2025 project “Building Stable Roots in a Sustainable Learning Ecosystem” as part of the New European Agenda for Adult Learning, co-funded by the European Union. 

For more information on the project, please contact Ruby at