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Votes for 16-year-olds -- Young SF candidate's call after National Youth Federation poll

6 May, 2004

A young Sinn Féin local election candidate in the Taoiseach's constituency has called for 16-year-olds to be given the vote after today's (Thursday's) poll by the National Youth Federation showed that nine out of ten young people aged 15 to 17 cannot name a single MEP and only half can name one of their local TDs.

Ciarán Mac Annraoi is the 25-year-old running mate of Councillor Christy Burke in Dublin's North Inner City.  He has challenged the Government to make good on its words at the EU Ministers' Youth Conference at Dromoland Castle in March when the Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Síle de Valera, said: "It is important that young people participate in the structures that impact directly on their lives at local, regional, national and international levels."

The Sinn Féin candidate said:  "We've heard the words, now let's see some action."  He added:  "Voting is only one way of including young people in decision making but it is an important step nonetheless."  The former student activist continued:

"Tens of thousands of young people have mobilised on issues like the Gulf War, globalisation and the environment.  Young people invest tremendous energy in the creative arts, music and sport.  Why lock that out of the electoral system?  We should be finding ways of channelling that action, idealism and fresh thinking into shaping a better society locally and nationally as well as globally."

The Sinn Féin candidate said that claims that 16-year-olds aren't mature enough to exercise the vote do not stand up.  "The maturity of some adults of 18 and over -- and even the behaviour of some mayors elected as councillors -- can be questioned.   Being over 18 is no guarantee of maturity.  The State recognises 16-year-olds as citizens in their own right when it insists that they have their own passports going abroad.  If people are old enough to leave school, work and pay taxes then they are old enough to vote."

Ciarán Mac Annraoi added:  "Involving young people in politics and society has to go beyond reducing the voting age and through local authorities and State agencies creating ways in which they can have representation and a real input into services and policies affecting them."  ENDS

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