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SF, FF & FG all in agreement: children should be given the right to vote

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Greens, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, as well as Social Democrats and Labour TDs have all declared that Ireland should lower the voting age to 16 – an idea so bad it’s almost difficult to put into words. But let’s try anyway, since you won’t find much opposition to it in the rest of the media, or from any of our political parties.

First, some background.

Micheál Martin first expressed his support for the idea initially back in February of 2020.

As reported in the Irish Examiner:

“Micheál Martin visited the school this morning ahead of a planned canvass of the Kerry town. He was joined by Fianna Fáil election candidate Norma Foley – a former town Mayor and an English teacher in the school.

Mr Martin took questions from TY students who asked him about the youth vote and gender balance in politics. When asked by a student about encouraging more young people to use their vote, Mr Martin said: “Personally, I would reduce the voting age to 16.””

Since then the idea seems to have gained traction among other parties, with Sinn Féin’s Fintan Warfield tabling a motion last week to achieve that same goal in the Seanad:

“Sinn Féin have today restored the Electoral (Amendment) (Voting at 16) Bill 2016 to the order paper of the Seanad and have pledged to continue the ‘Votes at 16’ campaign. If passed, the bill would allow 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in Local elections and European Parliament elections.”

Warfield also hinted that this was merely a first step of many, and teased the idea of there being a referendum to allow 16-year-olds to vote in other elections and democratic processes – presumably general elections and referenda.

Not to be left out, Fine Gael’s Neil Richmond took to TikTok to say that “the government are committed to introducing votes for 16 year olds” for the local and European elections, adding that there may be a referendum for letting teens vote in general elections, presidential elections and referenda, and saying “hopefully we’ll see it reduced to 16 across the board.”

So there you have it – the three biggest parties in Ireland, including the so-called “opposition” party of Sinn Féin, all support extending the franchise to 16 year olds. No doubt the usual suspects like the Greens, Labour, People Before Profit and the likes of Gary Gannon from the Social Democrats will join ranks with them as well. Which means it must be a good idea, right? All Irish parties have agreed on something – what could possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s put this in perspective for a moment.

In Ireland, a person is eligible for “child benefit” up until the age of 18 – the key part of that phrase being “CHILD.” In the eyes of the Irish State, anyone under the age of 18 is deemed to be a child, and their parents receive financial assistance based on the assumption that they are still at home being taken care of by their mammy and daddy – an assumption that is both reasonable, and usually true.

You can’t join the Irish military or drink alcohol legally in this country until you are 18 years old. In fact, under Irish criminal law, you are legally considered a “child” in court if you commit a crime before that age – if a 17 year old stabs someone, they cannot be tried as an adult, because they don’t fit the legal definition of an adult. And nobody is proposing a change to those laws.

Even Ireland’s age of consent is 17 – if you were to have sex with a 16 year old in this country, a court would rightly find you guilty of sex with a child. You can’t drive a car until you are 17 either. And this is not disputed by anyone.

16 year olds can’t be drafted in wartime, they aren’t entitled to full minimum wage in employment, they are protected in jobs by special laws regarding child labour that don’t apply to adults. The list goes on. Everything about our society points to them being less capable than a fully mature adult, and consequently extends them both less responsibilities and less rights when it comes to decisions of huge importance, like voting in national elections.

What this effectively means is that we have almost all parties in the State advocating for giving literal children the right to vote.

We’d effectively be saying that a 16 year old does not have the mental maturity to have sex or drink alcohol, but apparently they DO have the maturity to decide the future of the entire nation through elections. They’re not allowed to legally drive a car because they’d be too irresponsible behind the wheel, but they CAN vote on referenda that will permanently alter the constitution of our country for generations to come.

More importantly, you’d be giving teenagers the power to decide society’s fate, despite them being totally dependent on their parents in close to 100% of cases. How many 16 year olds do you know that provide for themselves and live independently? Almost none.

What this effectively means is that they could vote for, say, higher tax rates, and would suffer no personal consequences, considering the vast majority of 16 year olds don’t work or pay tax. They could vote for a pro war party, knowing they won’t get drafted if conflict breaks out. They could vote for almost anything, no matter how poorly thought out, and it wouldn’t affect them. Because, once again, they’re children.

To be honest, since we’ve crossed the rubicon of letting children vote already, why stop at 16? Why can’t a 15 year old vote? Their rights and responsibilities are the same as a 16 year old. Or what about a 14 year old? Hell, why not 12? Or 10? There used to be a cut-off here – i.e., that we only allowed the adult citizen population to cast ballots. But since we’ve done away with that now apparently, we might as well just go mental – right? How is letting a 9 or 10 year old vote any more absurd than what these politicians are proposing?

At a certain point, you have to wonder if these people even proof-read their own policies before blurting them out, let alone seriously consider their implications. Of all the dangerously stupid crap that’s wafted out of the halls of Leinster House in modern times, this has got to be up there as one of the most daft and potentially catastrophic. God help us if this plan becomes a reality.

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