Friday, 6 June 2008

Lowering the Voting Age Campaign - Press Release

Labour candidate Dermot Looney calls on Minister to lower voting age to 16

Labour's youngest candidate in Ireland for the 2009 local elections is to lead a campaign to allow 16 and 17 year olds vote in next year's polls.

Dermot Looney, a Labour Youth activist and community campaigner from Greenhills in Dublin 12, has called on Environment Minister John Gormley to lower the voting age in local and European parliament elections from 18 to 16. He is joined in his campaign by secondary school students from across the local area and by Labour Youth, the youth section of the Labour Party.

Looney has been recently selected by Labour to run in the Terenure-Rathfarnham Ward of South Dublin County Council. He has said that the campaign, which will be launched on June 16th as a symbol of the change demanded, will write to all secondary schools in the country to seek the support of students.

Looney will also join with Labour Youth in launching an innovative online campaign through sites such as Bebo and Youtube, and has called on young people of all political persuasions to join with him in demanding their voting rights.

"16 and 17 year olds have a great deal of experience with the democratic process. The teenagers of this generation have far more knowledge of politics through the CSPE programme in secondary schools. They are increasingly engaged in political and charity campaigns. And they are heavily impacted on by decisions made at local and European level," Looney stated.

"Articles 12 and 16 of our Constitution enforce a voting age of 18 and above for Dáil and Presidential elections in Ireland," Looney said. "But there is no such constitutional requirement for local and European elections, such as those happening in 12 months time."

"As someone who is in contact with young people on a daily basis and in a variety of capacities, I am constantly encouraged by their commitment to social justice, equality and democracy. And a great many teenagers are rightly angered by the demonisation of youth by conservative politicians and media outlets. Now's the time for young people to stand up and be counted," stated Looney.

Colm Lawless (16), a fellow Dublin South West Labour Youth activist who has just completed Transition Year, said that; "Teenagers are constantly under-estimated by politicians. We're far more engaged and interested in politics than they realise, and we want to have a vote in the issues that matter to us."

Lawless continued; "Our research indicates that 16 and 17 year olds in Austria and much of Germany are permitted the vote at local level. According to their general election manifesto, the Green Party share Labour's policy on reducing the voting age for local and Euro elections to 16. Now's the time to act on this promise," he said.

Lawless concluded, "As someone who is currently disenfranchised, I'm joining with Dermot Looney to call on Minister Gormley to enact the change."


Note for Editors - The National Youth Council of Ireland currently support the lowering of the voting age in local and European elections to 16. Austria permits municipal council voting from 16, and the same applies in the German states of Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein.

Dermot Looney will be hosting a photoshoot with young supporters calling for the lowering of the voting age on Monday June 16th - full details to follow next week.