By Darren Harkin
16 year olds in Wales will now be able to vote in 2021 council elections. With the General Election just around the corner is it time for the voting age to be lowered here in Northern Ireland?
The Northern Ireland Youth Forum argue that young people should not be excluded from the democratic process.
Tara Grace Connolly, a NYIF Chairperson said, “It is ironic that you can join a political party at 16 but can’t actually vote for it. Young people at this age can get married, pay taxes, have a job, leave school, consent to medical treatment, and start a family but they cannot vote.”
Julian Jessop is an independent economist and advocate for keeping the voting age at 18 and he told the Institute of Economic Affairs.
“I’ve heard people argue that the voting age should be lowered to 16, while simultaneously arguing that the ages for buying alcohol and tobacco should be kept at 18, because drinking and smoking are dangerous activities.
“But if you can’t trust a child to make a relatively simple health choice on their own behalf, why allow them to decide the future of the entire country?”
All parties within the UK with the exception of the DUP, TUV and the Conservatives back reducing the voting age to 16.
A YouGov poll conducted in 2018 showed that 34% of those asked supported the idea of giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote.
It is estimated there are 1.5 million potential voters within the UK if there was a law passed to reduce the voting age to 16.
In November 2012 a motion to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote was passed in Stormont.
However, despite this vote the law did not change as the Northern Ireland Office still retains power and legislative responsibility over voting age.