'If we're mature enough to drive a tractor, we should be able to vote' - teen spends day with the Taoiseach
A transition year student campaigning to lower the voting age to 16 met with the Taoiseach today ahead of World Children's Day.
Aoife Murphy (15) from Delvin, Co Westmeath was the winner of this year's 'Kids Take Over' competition with Unicef Ireland, part of a global campaign that allows young people to shadow world leaders for a day.
Participants were asked to submit a video explaining what they would like to change about the lives of children in Ireland.
A student at Eureka Secondary School in Kells, Co Meath, Aoife's passion for politics spurred her on to enter the competition.
The teen said she believes in the importance of lowering the voting age to 16, and used her entry to demonstrate what 16-year-olds can already do in Ireland.
"I think it’s very important that the age is lowered. Adults and people in government are making decisions for our future and we have no say, and I think we should have a say," Aoife told Independent.ie.
"As 16-year-olds, if we’re mature enough to drive a tractor, consent to medical treatment and so on, I think we’re definitely mature enough to be given the responsibility and opportunity to have a say in our future."
Aoife said her interest in politics stemmed from her family, but said she thinks it's "absolutely important" that her peers take an interest in politics and public life when they're young.
"My family are big into politics themselves, we watch the news every evening so that contributes to it," she said.
"But absolutely, I think young people should be very engaged with political life. They should know exactly what’s going on in their country, because those decisions now could be affecting them later."
Speaking at the launch of the 'First 5' initiative by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Aoife said she was "really excited" to meet the Taoiseach and make her first trip to the Dáil.
"I’m really looking forward to meeting the Taoiseach and getting to speak to him one-on-one, and also going to the Dáil because I’ve never been before, so I’m really excited for that."
Executive Director of Unicef Ireland, Peter Power, said they were "delighted" that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had agreed to work with them ahead of the second World Children's Day event.
"We're delighted that the Taoiseach has engaged with Unicef on this over the last two years. He's one of few leaders across the world that has devoted significant time with young children on World Children’s Day, so we’re delighted that he can do that," Mr Power told Independent.ie.
Mr Power praised Aoife's entry as the "standout" candidate and said that the issue of lowering the voting age was one that resonated with them.
"We were looking for somebody who was highly engaged, highly articulate, who would work on a particular issue that is relevant to young people and Aoife’s issue, which is campaigning to reduce the voting age in Ireland, was one that very much resonated with us."
The 'First 5' initiative was launched today ahead of World Children's Day tomorrow. The strategy aims to provide a whole-of-government plan for babies, young children and their families from 2019 to 2028.
The ambitious 10 year plan aims to deliver a broader range of options for parents, new models of parenting support and new developments in child heath.
It also aims to deliver a package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty and reform of the Early Learning and Care system.