Politicians have used Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday in a bid to connect with 16-year-olds.
inister of State for electoral reform Malcolm Noonan (54) said lowering the voting age to 16 will be considered by a new electoral commission.
“The times they are indeed a-changing,” he said.
The Programme for Government negotiated by the Greens contains an explicit commitment to examine the Scottish experience in reducing the voting age.
The evidence again suggests that, along with political education, if we encourage young people at 16 and 17 to vote, they become habitual voters and more likely to engage with the political system.
He was answering another Malcolm, Senator Malcolm Byrne of Fianna Fáil (47), who has campaigned for a decade and a half for 16-year-olds to get the vote.
He said the minister had referred to Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, adding: “He will be aware, of course, that one of the verses opens with the line: ‘Come senators, congressmen, heed ye the call.’
“I ask that the minister heed the call of young people that we look at allowing those aged 16 and 17 to vote.
“The time is there to allow us to plan for it properly for the local and European elections in 2024,” he told the Seanad.
Minister Noonan replied: “To finish that quote, Bob Dylan said, ‘Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall,’ so he was probably referring to giving an opportunity to everyone to take part in our political system.”
The Government last December approved the drafting of an Electoral Reform Bill with proposals to establish an electoral commission.
One of the commission’s initial functions will be to conduct research on electoral policies, procedures and administrative practices — including the issue of reducing the voting age.
The Convention on the Constitution examined this issue extensively in recent years. Three ballots took place, with the first having a small majority in favour of the proposal that the voting age should be reduced.
In a second ballot, the members were asked to consider whether to reduce the voting age to 17 or to 16 years, with stronger support for the latter reduction.
A third ballot was also held on whether the voting age should be reduced for some types of elections only, such as the local elections. Some 68pc of convention members voted against this proposal, with 28pc voting in favour, meaning any new lowered age should apply across the board.
The Convention then called for a referendum to be held to amend the Constitution to reduce the voting age to 16 years of age for all elections.
Separately, the Citizens’ Assembly recommended in its 2018 report that the voting age should be lowered to 16 as a means to increase turnout.
It had voted by 80 of its 100 members in favour of a reduction in the voting age.
Minister Noonan said: “My Department is committed to having this important issue examined.”
He said he had given a commitment to the Irish Second-Level Students Union that this would happen “as we move towards the 2024 local elections”.
He added: “I give my full commitment that we will explore every avenue to try to make it happen.”