16-year-olds are ‘too immature, uninformed and inexperienced’ to be given the right to vote, according to Social Care Ireland.
Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne has called for the voting age to be reduced to 16 in a bid to encourage youth participation in politics and build a “new deal for young people as we come out of COVID.”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Senator Byrne and Social Care Ireland (SCI) founder Noel Howard debated the proposal.
Senator Byrne said young people have illustrated their maturity in recent years on everything from climate change and human rights to community youth facilities.
“The reduction in voting age has been in place in a number of other European countries and it has worked quite well,” he said.
“Austria was the first EU country to do it in 2007 but it is also in place in Argentina, in Brazil, in Scotland, in Wales and in a lot of the German Länder.
“What I am proposing is that, for the local and European elections in 2024, that we look at reducing it to 16.”
Mr Howard said voting is a huge privilege and warned that, “the fact of the matter is a child is a child until they are 18.”
“At the moment, for example, a 16-year-old can’t ring the Late Late Show on a Friday to see if they can win €10,00 or whatever the prize is,” he said.
“They can’t buy a lottery scratch card, they can’t get married, they can’t get a mortgage and we are saying that they should have this huge responsibly placed on them?
“In fact, at that age, they are the least politically informed, the least politically experienced and the least mature in terms of making long-term decisions.”
"A child is a child"
He said research has shown that “nuances are very unclear” to people under the age of 18.
“Things are very black and white for them,” he said. “The fact of the matter is a child is a child until they are 18. There is no doubt about that.
“Recently the Judge of Juvenile Court in Dublin made that point – that childhood and adolescence continues on to the early 20s.
“They are not mini-adults; they are children and the unintended consequences of something like this I think is something that should be looked at.”
Senator Byrne said the debate over this year’s Leaving Cert showed that young people are mature enough to have their say.
“I think one of the most mature and professional contributions came from the Irish Second Level Students Union,” he said.
“They didn’t walk out of any talks; they put across their case very effectively and very well and I am inspired when I hear young people talking about climate change and human rights and when you see some of the winners of the BT Young Scientist.”
Mr Howard suggested that political parties are pushing for the change in the hopes it will improve their own election chances.
“I think there is a level of political expediency here,” he said. “Political parties know that if they get young people at that age, they will be open to being exploited.”
Senator Byrne said he ‘totally disagrees.’
“The evidence, if you look at Austria, what actually happens is, you don’t see a major change in voting habits with regard to political parties – but what you do see is a lot more issues of concern to young people on the political agenda.
“I think this is what we have got to do, particularly coming out of this COVID period – look at the new society we can create for young people.”
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