Wednesday, November 16, 2016 – 16:00
Extending votes to emigrants and young people aged 16 and 17 would enhance democracy in Ireland UCC/NYCI seminar told
Extending votes to emigrants and young people aged 16 and 17 would enhance, expand and enrich the democratic system in Ireland. That was the key message emerging from a seminar on voting rights organised by University College Cork (UCC) and the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) in Dublin today (16.11.16).
Voting rights for the Irish abroad and extending voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds were the key issues up for debate at the event which took place at the National University of Ireland and saw international experts share their experiences with policy-makers, academics, young people and politicians. Apart from exploring the benefits of both proposals, the seminar teased out the practical issues and the next political and legislative steps required to implement both proposals.
Emigration/Votes for Irish abroad
The panel on emigrant voting rights included Dr. Theresa Reidy, Department of Government, University College Cork, Dominic Hannigan, the former TD and Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs and Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí, Department of Geography, University College Cork
Commenting at the seminar on emigrant voting rights Dr Reidy stated “We have heard all of the arguments about how it is too complicated; the diaspora is enormous and dispersed across the globe, Northern Ireland poses an unusual set of circumstances, registration would be too complex, etc. These questions are aired as though Ireland is a state on Mars and these types of issues have not been considered and addressed in a variety of different ways by other democracies. It is time for the government to come good on their promises. A decision needs to be made with a detailed implementation plan in time for the 2018 presidential election.”
Votes at 16
The panel on extending voting rights to young people aged 16 and 17 was addressed by a range of national and international speakers which included Dr Hanna Wass of the University of Helsinki, Will Brett, Head of Campaigns and Communication with the Electoral Reform Society in the UK and Senator Fintan Warfield of Sinn Fein and James Doorley from NYCI. The panel on votes at 16 was also addressed by Molly Kirby aged 17 from the Scottish Youth Parliament, where young people aged 16 and 17 have the right to vote in most Scottish elections and referenda.
“NYCI has consistently campaigned for the extension of voting rights to young people aged 16 and 17 years. Unfortunately, the then Irish Government reneged in 2015 on its commitment to follow the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention and hold a referendum to allow young people aged 16 and over the right to vote. Arising from this seminar, NYCI will be renewing its efforts to ensure young people aged 16 and 17 years can vote in the 2019 local and European elections, which can be achieved by means of legislation and does not require a referendum. As has been demonstrated by Scotland, extending voting rights to greater numbers of young people, not only has positive outcomes for young people but the health and vibrancy of the democratic system as a whole,” said Ms Marie-Claire McAleer, head of research and policy at NYCI and chair of one of the panel discussions.
“While this joint UCC/NYCI seminar focused on two particular policy proposals, ultimately it was about enhancing and deepening our electoral and democratic system, which we should never take for granted. As has been the case for many decades and centuries, one of the best ways to strengthen any democracy is to expand the number of people who have not only a right to vote, but a say in the future. Our research shows that amongst young Irish emigrants there is a strong support for extending voting rights for the Irish abroad in Presidential elections. To extend the franchise to these citizens would assist them to forge and maintain closer ties with home. If Ireland wishes to encourage, attract and support these young Irish emigrants to return home in the future, then we need to foster greater connections with them when they are abroad. Likewise expanding the electoral system to include 126,000 young people aged 16 and 17 in time for the 2019 local and European elections would send a signal that Government is committed to giving young people a say in decisions and policies which impact upon them” concluded Ms McAleer.
Contact: Daniel Meister, NYCI Communications Manager: 087 781 4903, 01-478 4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
About National Youth Council of Ireland
The National Youth Council of Ireland is a member-led umbrella organisation that represents and supports the interests of voluntary youth organisations and uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people. www.youth.ie
This event has been funded by a New Foundations Award from the Irish Research Council.