The Voting Age in Ireland is currently 18, but there is a referendum happening in 2019, where the goal is to reduce the voting age to 16. The reason the Irish Government wants to lower the voting age is because people are no longer voting.

Since 1970, there have been substantial falls in the turnout during the general elections. Turnout in local elections in recent decades has mirrored the decline in turnout in general elections.

Prior to 1997, turnout in presidential elections seemed to be steady. The 1997 presidential election showed a much larger fall in a single election than ever seen in general or local elections.

Despite often being viewed as a country with a high level of interest in all things political, Ireland has had one of the lowest average turnout levels in Western Europe. 

Low and declining voter turnout levels also became increasingly characteristic of Irish electoral contests from the early 1980s and onwards, with general election turnouts falling by 13.5% between 1981 and 2002. Turnout levels fluctuated significantly during the Celtic Tiger period, and especially in those areas that had been impacted on the most by the social and economic changes of the late 1990s and 2000s.

The Irish voting age was twenty-one until the referendum of the Fourth Amendment of the Irish Constitution took place in 1972. The Constitution had previously stated that “every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of twenty-one years who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann, shall have the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann.”

The emboldened text was removed and a voting age of eighteen was added in its place, but after the referendum in 2019, hopefully, eighteen will be removed, and sixteen will be added.

In this day and age, most sixteen-year-olds in Ireland have strong opinions, and feel like the vote their parents make will harshly impact their future. These teenagers try to convince their parents to vote on behalf of them, and vote the teenagers opinions not their own. In the upcoming abortion referendum, a lot of adults will vote no to repealing it, whereas any teenager I have asked strongly believes that abortion should be legal and the Amendment be repealed.

Unfortunately for the abortion referendum, you have to be eighteen to vote and if the Amendment remains unchanged, it could alter the lives of teenagers in ways you couldn’t imagine. But, it could all be fixed if they lowered the voting age.

 

Photo: Paul Faith via Northern Ireland Youth Forum

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