Monday 27 February 2017

Time to end age discrimination in presidential politics

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Michael Collins in London during Treaty talks
Michael Collins in London during Treaty talks
1922: Irish soldier and politician Michael Collins (1890 - 1922), whose high level involvement with Sinn Fein and the IRA led to his taking part in the peace treaty negotiations between Britain and Ireland in 1921. He was killed in an ambush in County Cork on 22nd August 1922 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

By the age of 32 Michael Collins was old enough to lead the armed struggle against the British, old enough to participate in the subsequent treaty negotiations in London, old enough to serve as Finance Minister and acting head of Government and old enough to die in uniform. Yet in the Ireland of today he would not be old enough to even stand in a Presidential election, let alone be President.

On May 22 the people of Ireland will be asked to extend eligibility for the office of President to those aged between 34 and 21. On a day when it is expected that the people will make a statement in favour of equality on marriage matters, it seems unusual that the people may reject equality for those of a certain age when it comes to matters of State.

The age limit to join the Irish defence forces is 18-34. Precisely the age cohort precluded from running for the Presidency. Therefore our Constitution tells us that you can represent your country in military uniform and potentially pay the ultimate sacrifice to defend our Bunreacht - yet you are not deemed to be a significant enough human being to represent it as President.

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