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Sinn Féin table motion on reducing minimum voting age‏

28 June, 2011 - by Phil Flanagan

Sinn Féin have tabled a motion in the Assembly on reducing the minimum age of voting in elections and referendums to 16.

Phil Flanagan, who is the youngest MLA in the Assembly, said:


“There has been much talk recently about voter apathy and about a lack of interest within society about politics.


“This was more evident amongst our young people.


“One of the potential reasons for this detachment is the fact that young people must wait until they are 18 before they can cast a vote in any election or referendum.


“As elected representatives, we make decisions every day that impact heavily on young people and many of these decisions will have a long term effect on their future, yet they have no say in who represents them in fora such as the Assembly or local Councils.


“As the youngest MLA, I am keen to ensure that young people are given a greater say in our decision making process.


“At the minute, there is a huge debate going on regarding tuition fees; yet many of the people that this decision will impact most on over the term of this Assembly have been denied the opportunity to take part in a democratic process to elect decision makers.


“I am in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 so that young people can have a direct influence on who is elected to make these decisions.


"Many 16 and 17 year olds play a vital role in society, through employment, studying, paying taxes and volunteering through community and charity groups.


“People can also live independently at the age of 16 so I cannot understand why they are denied the right to vote; they are treated as adults in every other manner, with government quite willing and happy to accept their taxes but will not afford them the basic democratic right to vote.


“A dynamic could be created by more participatory democracy through lowering the voting age, sparking new found interest and engagement in politics and decision making.


“This could open up new ideas, and challenge old bad practice, and banish once and for all the myth that young people are not interested in politics.


“I look forward to this motion reaching the floor of the Assembly where I am hopeful a mature debate can begin on this issue.”

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