Sinn Fein Senator wants change to voting age in Europe

By Enda Coll

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Sinn Fein Senator Fintan Warfield, who will propose the change to the voting age on local and European elections says it’s time for Ireland to change.

Warfield will introduce a bill to the Seanad tomorrow, which would give people of the age of 16 the right to vote.

The former Mayor of South Dublin said that with the ‘fractured’ nature of Europe at the minute, it has become increasingly important to give young people a say.

“You look at Brexit, you look at Europe, at a fractured Europe and I think it’s increasingly important that young people have a say.” , Warfield said.

“I think Ireland is changing, I think our culture is changing we need to embrace the reality in our midst and I think the referendum on children’s rights did that.”

“We should continue on that journey [of change] by opening a passway for young people, their feelings, their emotions, their attitudes and their point of view in elections.”

“I think it’s timely, now more than ever I think our collective response to a fractured world should be truly inclusive.”

Despite poor turnouts for first time voters in local elections, Warfield believes 16 year olds would be more likely to vote than 18-21 year-olds.

“Should the legislation pass I anticipate that young people will turnout in greater numbers as this will be the only opportunity they have.”

“Bare in mind that those young people led the referendum for civil marriage equality and they’re now beginning to lead the repeal the 8th campaign.”

“I have confidence that those who are interested will get out and vote.”

In Europe, only three other countries have a voting age of 16 – which include, Austria, Norway and most recently, Scotland.

The bill will be modelled loosely on theirs according to Warfield, but it’s more the turnouts in these countries that he is focussed on.

“In Scotland, although 16 and 17 year olds didn’t vote in the brexit elections, 75% of them cast their vote when they were given the opportunity when they voted on the Scottish referendum.”

“58% cast their vote in Norway, far higher in fact than the turnout for the regular first time voters between the ages of 18-21 year olds.”

The bill comes after the announcement from an Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he plans to call a referendum which would give Irish people outside of Ireland the power to vote in the presidential election.

“I’m mindful that at recent announcement of the taoiseach to extend the presidential voting rights to the global diaspora as a very positive announcement”

“A democracy should always be a work in progress… we’re trying to change legislation with legislation alone.”

Radio package done by Enda Coll:


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