Bill proposes to lower voting age to 16

A Junior Minister has told the Dáil that he believes a proposal to lower the voting age to 16 will progress following its consideration by the new body overseeing elections.

Malcolm Noonan was responding to a Private Members’ Bill to extend the franchise, which has been tabled by the Independent TD Thomas Pringle.

The minister said he would be asking the new Electoral Commission to examine the proposal soon after it is established.

He said this would allow for a potential change to be in place for the local elections in 2024.

Mr Pringle said young people would be very disappointed to hear of the delay.

He said it was ridiculous to dictate who votes and how informed they are.

“People come to voting when it’s right for them. For some, it’s when they are 40, for others 16. We shouldn’t take this opportunity away from those who are politically engaged and ready to vote,” he said.

Mr Pringle said that the introduction of the Leaving Cert Politics and Society subject along with easy access to information, means that young people are well informed and have the necessary tools to make good decisions.

“They have societal responsibility but no say in how society is run,” he said.

Mr Pringle’s Vote 16 bill would require a constitutional amendment to enable lowering of the voting age.

Mr Noonan said reducing the age for voters in Dáil elections would have a knock-on effect on the voting age for Presidential, local elections and referendums.

The Government agreed this week to amend the Electoral Reform Bill to allow the Electoral Commission to examine the issue of voting age.

That bill is currently going through the Oireachtas.

The minister said this would particularly examine the experience of Scotland, which has introduced such a proposal.

Sinn Féin TD Réada Cronin said it was anti-democratic to deny young people the vote at 16.

“To tell them we’re not ready for them, when they are ready for us infantilises young people and delays their participation in democratic process,” she said.

Mr Noonan also disputed an assertion from Mr Pringle that lowering the voting age would be disadvantaged Government parties.

He said that was not always the case, but he said it would transform manifestoes and candidates.

Independent TD Joan Collins said it was not too late to change the Electoral Reform Bill and she said a late change had been added to allow parties, including Fianna Fáil, to hold lotteries.

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