Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

The Young: Politicians' surprise at findings on voting age

A number of politicians have spoken of their surprise after a Belfast Telegraph poll revealed the majority of young people do not want the age at which you can vote to be lowered.

South Down MLA Chris Hazzard and NI21 leader Basil McCrea are among the Assembly Members who would support the age at which you become eligible to vote in Northern Ireland being dropped from 18 to 16.

The issue was previously debated at Stormont when MLAs were divided over whether the age should be lowered.

The issue is not devolved, and the responsibility lies with the Northern Ireland Office.

The age at which you can vote was one of the questions asked by today's Belfast Telegraph youth poll.

While two-thirds of those questioned said they did not think the age should be lowered, that result was turned on its head when those aged 16-18 were questioned. Some 57% of that age group believed it should come down.

Sinn Fein politician Mr Hazzard said he was surprised by the results.

"Certainly, the young people I speak to are keen to get involved in the political process," he said. "For me, it's about getting young people involved in the civic process at a younger age and I have a feeling that if you leave it to 18, you've missed the boat. It doesn't go on age."

Mr Hazzard expressed his concern that schools need to develop this involvement. "Some schools do it well, some not so well. And schools are the perfect venue for discussing such issues."

Mr McCrea also backed lowering the voting age, saying that the "benefits outweigh the problems".

"If you were to start at 16 you'd have a greater chance of getting people to go along and see how the voting happens.

"There are some people still being told what to do by their parents, and that still happens at 16, 21, 31..."

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