Zayn Malik’s move points us in one direction on presidential age referendum

‘The proper place for a 21-year-old is in a nightclub; or a night-train to Mongolia with nothing much to do in the morning’

‘Zayn Malik’s exit from hurly-burly world of 1D . . . might just preserve his composure.’ Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

‘Zayn Malik’s exit from hurly-burly world of 1D . . . might just preserve his composure.’ Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

 

Zayn Malik was a stranger to me before he decided to quit One Direction “after five incredible years”, but I’m still impressed by his apparent candour. “I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22- year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight,” he said.

Please, don’t cry. Malik’s exit from hurly-burly world of 1D, no great loss to the world’s musical heritage, might just preserve his composure. Moreover, his plea for normality strikes me as quite the perfect spur to vote against the referendum to reduce the age of candidates for the presidential election to 21 from 35.

In practical and symbolic terms, this is as fatuous a proposition as has ever been put to the people.

For one thing, it is exceedingly difficult to conceive of some kind of a supreme 21-year-old ever emerging whose utter wondrousness could make for a perfect president.

In the unlikely event that such a person appears, their talents would be far better deployed in a post other than the presidency, which has limited powers.

We’re talking here about head of State, a post rich in ceremony and (I have no doubt) prolonged periods of utter boredom.

To conceive of someone in their 20s or 30s wanting the job is to conceive of a narrow- gauge monomaniac with too much in the imagination and not enough going on elsewhere in the brain. Why change the Constitution for that?

Freedoms of youth

One can think of assorted young royals in various countries, growing up in public, making all their mistakes in public and so forth.

For all the perceived attractions of stardom, Malik of 1D speaks of something elemental when he refers to life beyond the spotlight. In modern real time, of course, the spotlight beam does not discriminate between boy- band heartthrobs and the political leadership.

However unappealing the prospect of any hipster actually running for president, it would seem to me like cruel and unusual punishment to vote for such a person.

There is much to admire in the Constitution and plenty, too, that could readily be dispensed with. But in the universe of ideas to overhaul the text for our common future, reducing the age limit on presidential candidacies is rather flimsy.

The point may well be made that this referendum is not really about allowing the young crew run for president, that the manoeuvre is cast simply to put younger adults on the same legal footing before the Constitution as the older crowd. This notion has some (limited) appeal but it’s difficult to see it as anything other than an empty gesture devoid of real meaning.

More and better jobs

While an actual improvement in the lives of younger adults would also necessitate a reduction in the cost of rented accommodation, rents are on the rise. According to the Economic and Social Research Institute, rents are approaching levels not seen since just before the crash.

It is also the case that many younger adults are themselves parents of tiny kids. We don’t need economists or statisticians to tell us childcare costs here are hideously expensive.

Far better to provide reasonably-priced childcare than to indulge in empty constitutional gestures.

In short, the proper place for a 21-year-old is not in Áras an Uachtaráin. It’s not even in the Dáil, Seanad or Cabinet.

No, the proper place for a 21-year-old is in a nightclub; or a night-train to Mongolia with nothing much to do in the morning; or a job in which mistakes can be made without major incident; or a college library; or in a band; or even a boy band. Vote No.

Arthur Beesley is Economics Editor

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