‘Support for voting age to be lowered’ – Fearon

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Friday, October 19th, 2012
Sinn Féin MLAs Megan Fearon and Phil Flanagan have called for a reduction in the minimum voting age from 18 to 16.

Pictured are (seated L-R) Megan Fearon MLA, Owen Rafferty and Martin McAuley; (standing L-R) Phil Flanagan MLA and Barry McColgan

They were speaking after holding a meeting with representatives from the NI Youth Forum at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Speaking to Newry Times, Megan Fearon said: “As the youngest MLA in the Assembly, I am keen to ensure that young people are given a greater say in our decision making process. I am in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 so that young people can have a direct influence on who is elected to make these decisions.” “Many 16 and 17 year olds play a vital role in society, through employment, studying, paying taxes and volunteering through community and charity groups. She added, “People can also live independently at the age of 16 so I cannot understand why they are denied the right to vote; they are treated as adults in every other manner, with government are quite willing and happy to accept their taxes, but will not afford them the basic democratic right to vote.” Phil Flanagan MLA said: “By reducing the voting age to 16, a dynamic could be created by more participatory democracy through lowering the voting age, sparking new found interest and engagement in politics and in decision making. “This could open up new ideas, and challenge old bad practice, and banish once and for all the myth that young people are not interested in politics. Flanagan added, “A historic decision has been taken in Scotland to allow 16 and 17 years olds to participate in a crucial referendum on Scottish independence; it is time that all elections and referenda held on the island of Ireland were made equally open to young people.” Martin McAuley, Campaigns Office of the NI Youth Forum, speaking after the meeting, said: “We are delighted with the continuing support Sinn Fein representatives have provided on this issue and their recognition that young people should have a voice at the ballot box. “16 is the age at which young people start the transition into adulthood. They can get a job, leave education, pay taxes, get married, consent to medical treatment or start a family; we can no longer ignore these facts nor continue to exclude them from democracy.”  
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