In today’s Irish Times Michael McLoughlin of Youth Work Ireland and Childrens Rights Alliance puts forward the case for lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 (subs req). The argument is not new and is a valid point to make; people at 16 are often just as politically aware as their seniors and while many laws will not affect them directly they will have a serious impact on their immediate future in the relatively short term.
The problem is that young people eligable to vote today have only a fleeting interest in politics; while there are many impressively wise 18, 19 and 20 year olds capable of highbrow political discourse the rest fail to see the point. That is not a failing on their part, it is a failing on the part of the politicians themselves.
For too long now political parties up and down the country have failed to reach out to young people. One example is the idealogical gap between the radical Ógra parties and their official incarnations which is absurd; often they lure young people in with Socialist and extremist ideal when the main party believes nothing of the sort.
Irish politics lacks the urgency it needs to garner interest but more importantly there are no mainstream politicians fighting for, or even speaking to, young people; first time housing, education, foreign affairs, climate change and social issues like equality all inspire young people in this country but no one in office or opposition seems keen to truely go out on a limb for them.
We are living in one of the most politically charged times in decades; people are talking about Iran, Iraq, Northern Ireland, the next superpower of China, Global warming, the imperialism of America, the pro’s and con’s of a Rising celebration and so on; why must us young people be forced to conduct this huge debate amongst ourselves?
There is frankly no point in adding another couple of thousand voters to the register if our politicians are going to continue ignoring them; they must learn to speak frankly, unpatronisingly and honestly to the youth of today or else lose them tomorrow. If they do manage to attract the interest of young people again perhaps one goodwill gesture to seal the deal would be to allow anyone able to vote the freedom to run for election too.
When all that happens maybe then the country will be ready for a lower voting age.