Monday 22 January 2018

Council chairman says yes to lowering presidential age

Our two youngest Presidents to date - Mary Robinson (top) and Mary McAleese - both elected to office at the age of 46.
Our two youngest Presidents to date - Mary Robinson (top) and Mary McAleese - both elected to office at the age of 46.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne, chairman of Wexford County Council.

IT'S gone below most people's radar, but there's another referendum on May 22. It will ask if the Presidential candidacy age should be reduced from 35 to 21.

Chairperson of Wexford County Council Malcolm Byrne (40), said he's in favour of reducing the age limit at which someone may stand for the Irish Presidency.

'This referendum will not lead to a 30-year-old suddenly becoming president,' he said. 'The point of this referendum is that it will allow us as citizens to make that decision.' He said that if the referendum is carried, it will send out a clear message that 'we believe in the capacity of young people to lead our civic life.'

'There are many young Irish people under 35 already transforming how we live and work - think of those developing new ideas in science and technology and in the social economy,' he commented. 'The chances of us actually seeing a twenty-something or early-thirty-something as Uachtarán na hÉireann are slim, but it does send out a symbolic message.'

'It should be remembered that the youngest Presidents that we have had to date were Presidents McAleese and Robinson, both elected at 46, then followed by Dr Patrick Hillery, appointed at 53,' he continued. 'With the exception of Michael Collins, who was 32 during his few months at the helm in Civil War Ireland, our heads of government have always been over 35 - WT Cosgrave was head of government at 42; Bertie Ahern at 45; John Bruton at 47; Brian Cowen at 48; Jack Lynch at 49.

Read more here: Referendum decision looming.

Cllr Byrne said that in democracies, it is rare that the top posts are occupied by the young. 'Among our EU colleagues, Taavi Roivas, the Prime Minister of Estonia, is the youngest, elected aged 34 last year,' he said. 'The next youngest are Charles Michel in Belgium at 39 and the Italian and Greek premiers, Matteo Renzi and Alexis Tsipras, both 40.'

'As one of the youngest countries in Europe, with about half of our population under 35 years of age, we have a relatively poor rate of youth participation in formal political structures,' he stated. 'The average age of a TD elected to the current Dáil at the last General Election was 48.5.'

Read more here: Keep age limit for presidential candidates in place

He said he would much have preferred if the government had proceeded with the poll to reduce the voting age to 16 as it would be a more meaningful decision on engaging young people, rather than voting on the age to qualify for an important but largely symbolic office.

Wexford People

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