Referendum on presidency and age


Sir, – Jim Cosgrove, like me, must be of an age when gardaí , doctors and other professionals are appearing to get younger by the week (February 4th). Why not a president to match? After all how much worse could it be? If experience is important in politics, lack of it must be a better bet seeing what the old, experienced, wrinklies have done! – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Sir, – Theresa Reidy (Opinion & Analysis, February 5th), arguing that we should lower the age requirement of candidates for the presidency, writes: “There is no scientific evidence to suggest someone is more emotionally mature at 35 than at 30, and no guarantee that as people age, they will earn more life, or political, experience.”

I almost let out a groan of exasperation as I read these words. Is the tyranny of social scientists so far advanced that these latter-day oracles have to be consulted on everything? Has anyone actually measured the emotional maturity of 35-year-old people as opposed to 30-year-old people? How on earth would they do that? What is one unit of emotional maturity called? How could anyone fail to “earn more life experience” as they age, even if they never left the house?

Personally, I wouldn’t care if all candidates for the presidency were required to be red-headed, left-handed girls under the age of 12. I think a monarchy would be much more sensible. But, all that aside, can we please refrain from this mania of replacing reasoned debate with a blind faith in “scientific evidence”, which is so often pseudo-scientific evidence anyway? – Yours, etc,




Dublin 11.

Sir, – Surely the major problem to be addressed is not that a 21-year-old citizen cannot run for president but that the 99 per cent-plus of the population who are not part of the cosy political cadre cannot become president either. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – It is helpful to remind ourselves of some of the figures who have shaped this State to refute the suggestion that someone under the age of 35 would be unfit for the office of president. The current Taoiseach and his last three predecessors were all in their early or mid-twenties when elected to the Dáil; Dick Spring and William Norton were each under the age of 35 when elected to lead the Labour Party, and, in Mr Spring’s case, tánaiste; and the current government’s youngest member, Leo Varadkar, was appointed at the age of 32.

Should membership of the Dáil, the cabinet, leadership of a major political party and occupation of the position of tánaiste be insufficient to satisfy objections, then what of Michael Collins, whose short life was abridged at the age of 31? Is his role in achieving our independence and serving as leader of the country’s provisional government enough?

To those swayed by the suggestion that the referendum be voted down as a protest at the fact that this proposal is before us instead of other ones, I would argue that it is unclear how voting No would encourage the Government to hold further referendums. If the proposal is rejected, it would be interpreted as a rejection of the proposal itself, not the electorate sending a cryptic message to hold a different vote on something else. Indeed, it could even make it easier for the Government to justify not holding referendums on more important subjects – if the electorate is resistant to a relatively uncontroversial change such as this, then there must be limited appetite for constitutional reform. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.