By Darren Casserly
There have recently been calls for the voting age in Ireland to be lowered. It hasn’t been the first time that such calls have been made. There have been arguments against it which have revolved mainly around whether 16-year-olds are mature enough to vote intelligently in elections, and to partake in a process that may have a profound impact on the future. The response to this is, is there any real difference between 16 and 18, I have known 18-year-olds who have been far more immature and uninformed than many 16-year-olds. Maturity has nothing to do with age, at a certain point people are immature at any age.
It has been over 50 years since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 and in that time, education has gotten far better, and young people have a better understanding about important issues than ever before. It’s also not like this is a radical new idea. Dozens of countries around the world have already implemented it and it hasn’t ruined anything. Lowering it to 16 means that thousands of more people can vote, making them even more engaged in important topics when they know they have a vote in it.
It is very odd what people think a 16-year-old can and cannot do, they can drive on the road, work full time, but not have a vote on things that greatly affect them. It is just a matter of time until it does, and the sooner its enacted the better. There is no downside to letting them have their say and if politicians are afraid of what could happen it’s probably a good thing.
There is definite resistance to this from politicians because it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that young people are generally more progressive and there is not a lot of politicians in Ireland who you could call that. I know first-hand when I was that age, politicians would come to the door campaigning for a local election and they never had any interest in talking to me because I didn’t have a vote. Changing this could mean that politicians would have to talk to everyone with a bit of respect because they can vote. Young people want to be respected, not talked down to.
It’s clear that this is an issue that won’t be brought about thanks to politicians. It’s not a seismic change that will benefit millions or anything like that, but it is a change that is needed and is right.