Dermot Looney, the Labour Party candidate in June's local elections in Tallaght Central, has welcomed the National Youth Council of Ireland's (NYCI) campaign to lower the voting age to 16. Looney, 26, is the youngest candidate in South Dublin County and had previously launched a similar campaign in June 2008 aimed at reducing the voting age for local and Euro elections.
The NYCI campaign puts pressure on Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, who has responsibility for voting legislation and who promised in the Greens' last manifesto to drop the voting age.
"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, 16 and 47 of our Constitution enforce a voting age of 18 and above for Dáil and Presidential elections and referenda," 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. I am lucky to have a number of committed 16 and 17 year old supporters knocking and doors and campaigning with me – but none of them are permitted to have their say this June. They are politically engaged, politically active and politically aware – but not politically enfranchised."
"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.ENDS