Why are we voting on lowering the eligible age for the presidency?

It affects a million voters, but no one seems to care

If everyone aged 21-35 voted in favour of the amendment it could potentially get over the line.

If everyone aged 21-35 voted in favour of the amendment it could potentially get over the line.

 

The country is being asked to vote on a second referendum on May 22nd. This is to reduce the age at which candidates can run for the Irish presidency from 35 to 21 years, as recommended by the constitutional convention. Never has a vote been of such low interest to the public, it seems.

Yet the recent census figures show 992,776 people aged between 21 and 35 would be eligible to run for the Áras if it passes. That is about 25 per cent of the population, meaning if everyone aged 21-35 voted in favour of the amendment it could potentially get over the line.

The few who are calling for a Yes vote have said the same standard applies in this referendum as exists in the same-sex marriage one – that you shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of age or sexual orientation.

The argument against the referendum is that nobody aged 21 has the experience to hold the office of President.

Not one party is actively promoting the presidency referendum; no leaflets have been dropped and no posters erected.

Fine Gael is supporting a Yes vote but Labour is not taking a formal position on the vote. Both parties are focusing on the same-sex marriage referendum.

Despite the official position of Enda Kenny’s party, a number of backbench TDs have confirmed they will be voting against lowering the age of eligibility to run for the presidency.

Alan Farrell, a Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal, who is 37, said there were a number of other pressing matters that could have been put before the public.

“I am not sure I, as a voter, would be willing to support a 21-year-old if such a candidate were ever to appear on the ballot paper.

“This person is the first citizen of Ireland, representing us overseas, and a diplomat. That element of the job is something that comes with age and experience and I don’t accept a person of 21, 23 or 25 would have that experience built up.”

Olivia Mitchell, Fine Gael TD for Dublin South, said she would be voting No but would not be actively campaigning. She said she has seen no support at all for a change in the law.

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

Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are in favour of it.