‘Teens may demand right to drink, smoke if voting age cut’

Move should be opposed as 16-year-olds fighting ‘hormonal battles’, Mathews tells Dáil

Reducing the voting age limit from 18 to 16 could result in a demand for a similar drop in the legal age for smoking and drinking alcohol, the Dáil has heard.

Minister of State Paudie Coffey confirmed the Government would not oppose a Sinn Féin Bill to lower the voting age because it agreed "in principle" and is supported a referendum on the issue. But he said it would not happen this year with the two scheduled referendums.

But he also warned that reducing the voting age could lead to a demand for a lowering of the age threshold in other areas including the sale of tobacco and alcohol, the use of sunbeds and access to most social welfare schemes.

“We will need to be able to reconcile why a person should be able to vote at 16 years but should not be allowed to do certain other things.”


Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley welcomed the Government's decision not to oppose the Bill but said "it should not just allow it to run it into the sand".

Reducing the age would broaden “the franchise and provide more young people with a sense of ownership of the democratic process”.

Introducing the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, to allow a referendum on the voting age go ahead, he said they were “proposing a measure to allow 100,000 plus young people to fully participate in the democratic process” while the referendum on presidential candidates’ age was to allow one person become president.

In the EU only Austria allows 16-year-olds to vote in all elections but a number of German regions allow them to vote in regional and local elections.

Independent TD Peter Mathews opposed the lowering of the age limit and said 16-year-olds have "hormonal battles in their bodies, heads, minds and hearts".

He believed it would be unfair to impose the responsibility on them of making decisions “on who should represent their constituency and the people of the country”.

But Mr Stanley replied “many people in their 40s and 50s also have hormones battling in their bodies, but we do not remove their right to vote”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times