Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Teen voters couldn't even save pop idols

Should 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland get the vote so that they can help elect those who represent us at Stormont Assembly level? Frankly I'd say no. They're much, much too immature.

Those who represent us at Stormont Assembly level, that is. Not the 16-year-olds.

Having seen how the banking institutions stooped to bribery with jeans and gadgetry to suck in impressionable students for a lifetime of overdraft and interest rates, you can just imagine the promises and flattery the politicos would be prepared to spout in order to swing a few votes their way.

The "votes at 16" issue has already been debated at Stormont - in recent days a motion in favour was carried with 51 MLAs backing it and 29 opposing it.

But this doesn't actually mean it's about to become law. (Let's be honest, if it takes Stormont as long to introduce it as it's taken them to sort post-primary selection we're talking about the impact on a generation yet unborn.)

The final decision on this one rests with the NIO which has responsibility for electoral policy here. But doubtless the views of all parties will be taken into account. And currently we're some way away from consensus.

The DUP isn't terribly taken with the idea.

But other parties see in it some merit. For which read votes. So get ready any day soon children, for a concerted effort in smoozing from the political party people of all shades. Including, whatever their reservations, Ogra DUP.

The argument in favour of giving the vote to spotty yoof is about supposed demand. By the age of 16, we're assured, lots of teenagers are already politically active.

Depends of course on how you define lots. Lots more aren't. Lots more, let's be honest, couldn't care less about fiscal policy, roads maintenance, agricultural subsidy and the machinations of Executive business.

Is it even fair to burden them at such an early age with having to learn more about, and then weigh up, the competing attractions of Stormont's various but not all that varied parties?

Won't some be a little disappointed to discover, for example, that Club SDLP isn't some hot new nightclub featuring DJ Alex A but actually (and I quote from the party's website) an exciting new initiative aimed at assisting the party to rebuild for the future?

Not quite Stiff Kitten then ... ..

Those in favour of the "votes at 16" move insist that it is vital to "engage" (how they love that word at Stormont) this section of the population since much of the business of the Assembly impacts upon their young lives. But it also impacts upon the lives of say, eight-year-olds. And nobody's suggesting extending the franchise to under-tens. Um ... .are they?

On the plus side there may be some entertainment value in future election campaigns watching our local representatives attempting outreach to Kevin the teenager.

But for now, given they're chasing a potential voting corps who weren't even able to keep District3 in the X Factor, it might be more profitable for party bosses to concentrate on "engaging" that vital section of the electorate who, we know for a fact, have become increasingly, worryingly apathetic about local politics.

The 18 to 80-year-olds.

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