Tuesday 20 March 2018

Voting age should not be lowered to 16

Straight Talking - Deborah Coleman

The voting age in Ireland has once again been up for discussion but is it really necessary to consider reducing it from 18 to 16?

Those in favour of this change have expressed the view that those aged 16 and upwards are being discriminated against and that their views should be taken into account regarding elections and referenda.

I disagree with this. I think that 18 is an appropriate age for voting rights to come into effect and that it is a suitable age for adulthood, in the legal sense to commence.

Without sounding patronising, who, at the age of 16 has it all figured out? Many of us still don't well into adulthood so why should anyone, who is legally still a child in this country be allowed to vote?

Two years is not that long to wait, yet the growth both intellectually and emotionally that most young people will go through during that time is immense.

The vast majority of 16 year olds are not self sufficient in Ireland, they don't earn a wage and they haven't completed even second level education so why is there such a push to grant them voting rights?

Some might say that it would spark an interest in politics from a younger age but not having a vote would not preclude a teenager from following Irish politics.

It's not as if we all wake up on our 18th birthdays chomping at the bit to cast out vote. Irish people can't vote in elections in other countries yet we can follow what is happening and take an interest. Just look at how the USA presidential election enthralled the entire world. This wasn't' just because of the drama surrounding Donald Trump as US elections have captured the world for generations.

I'm not saying young people's opinions aren't valid or well-informed but I feel that at the age of 16 or 17 there is still so much for a person to discover and so many life lessons - many of which become clear from the age of 18 when third level education or the workforce calls.

Some life experience outside home and school can make a huge difference in one's views of the world and politics.

Your priorities change and what is important to you changes and it is very rare that at 16 you will hold the same opinions that you will as an adult.

While 16 year olds are not children, they are still not yet adults - no matter how opinionated they are.