Little Coalition support for vote on presidency

At least 11 Fine Gael and Labour TDs say they are voting No; others unsure

Fine Gael TD and Minister for State Simon Harris  is advocating a Yes vote on the age of eligibility for presidential office. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fine Gael TD and Minister for State Simon Harris is advocating a Yes vote on the age of eligibility for presidential office. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A number of Government TDs have said they will not vote in favour of lowering the age at which candidates are eligible for election to the office of President.

Up to 11 Labour and Fine Gael deputies confirmed they will vote No in the referendum to reduce the age a person can run from 35 to 21 years.

Fine Gael TDs Pat Breen, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Olivia Mitchell and John O’Mahony; and Labour TDs Ciaran Lynch, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Conaghan, Eamonn Maloney, Robert Dowds, Jack Wall and Brendan Ryan are on the No side on this referendum.

Mr O’Mahony, a Mayo TD, said he had seen no reason to vote in favour of the amendment to the Constitution.

Ms Mitchell, from Dublin South, said: “I am not calling for a No vote, I just can’t see any reason to vote Yes. I don’t think it is a good idea.”

Senior Fine Gael party sources are estimating the referendum could be rejected by up to 80 per cent of voters.

A number of other TDs said they were undecided what way they will vote today. Labour Minister of State Sean Sherlock, Labour TD Michael McNamara, and Fine Gael TDs Paul Connaughton and Andrew Doyle said they are unsure of the merits of the proposal.

Several TDs said privately the referendum was “silly” or “pointless”, and that it was a stupid move to have held it on the same day as the same-sex marriage vote.

Fine Gael Minister of State Simon Harris, who is advocating a Yes vote, said the Constitution is ageist and needs to be changed.

Ageism in Constitution

“Ageism has no place in our Constitution,” he added. “It was written at a time when there was a different view of our younger citizens.

“If someone can run for the Dáil, if someone can be taoiseach, I don’t see why they cannot put their name forward. The arguments about a 21-year-old president are disingenuous.”

The recommendation to hold a referendum on the age of eligibility to put one’s name forward for the presidency came from the constitutional convention.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin support the referendum to lower the eligibility age but have not canvassed for a Yes vote.

Labour said it would not take an official position on this referendum, but both party leader Joan Burton and deputy leader Alan Kelly said they are voting Yes.

No Senators

Some Fianna Fáil deputies will also vote No. Barry Cowen, John McGuinness, Charlie McConalogue and Robert Troy will all vote No.

The party’s finance spokesman, Michael McGrath confirmed he is undecided about what way to vote.

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton, as well as Independent TDs Denis Naughten and Mattie McGrath, are also voting No.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said this referendum was a positive development that should be passed. He said if a person can join the Defence Forces at this age they should be allowed to stand for the presidency.

“I am sick of the whingeing about the lack of young people involved in politics,” he said, “and yet when this proposal is brought forward there is no campaign.

“It is appalling that the Government has not lobbied for the issue.”