Saturday 22 September 2018

Who cares about the age of the President? What about the age of the voters?

Michael D Higgins
Michael D Higgins

On the list of most boring referendums of all time, the one about the age of presidential candidates has to come fairly near the top.

Essentially, if we vote it down we are saying "we the people want to use our democratic choice to make it impossible for we the people to use our democratic choice to elect a young president".

It's boring because it's irrelevant - the President could be 12 or 108 or Michael D Higgins' 74, but it wouldn't give them any more impact on our daily lives.

Perhaps the thing we should be looking at is the voting age. This whole 18 thing is daft.

Leaving aside that they rarely vote, state services matter less to young people - old folks are more likely to pay tax, more likely to access health services, be regular users of public transport, have homes to protect, have children to raise, claim social welfare, start businesses, have jobs.


Almost every policy matters more the farther you get from your teenage years.

It's why the whole "young voter apathy" worry is daft - young voters are apathetic (for the most part) because they are affected far less by government actions than are older people.

We have this false sense that 18 is a magical age of adulthood. It's not. You can ride a motorbike at 16, have sex at 17, have a beer at 18 and get elected to the Dail at 21.

So why 18 for voting? Voting lets you decide the fate of the nation and impacts on all of your fellow citizens.

Surely that's a bigger responsibility than motorcycles, sex and booze?

Isn't it time we held a referendum to shift the voting age up to a level where we can be sure maturity has started to set in? Like, say, 42?

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