Assembly back motion to reduce voting age

November 13, 2012

By Christine Keighery

A motion brought forward to the Assembly by Sinn Fein MLA, Megan Fearon, in conjunction with the Green Party, to lower the voting age to sixteen, was successfully passed last week.  Fifty one MLAs backed the motion while twenty nine opposed the move.

Sinn Fein’s Megan Fearon, the youngest Stormont MLA, had initiated the motion to encourage the engagement of more young people in politics.

Commenting on the success of the motion, Ms Fearon said she was pleased at the support shown by most parties and that it was important that young people, who are currently disenfranchised from the political system, are included.

She added,

“Before the motion, we held an informative event, where a great deal of young members of the community came along and engaged in a question and answer session about the lowering of the voting age to 16. This further proved the point that young people are more politically aware than ever before, due to our high standard of education.

“I have been politically active and aware since my early teens, but I was only entitled to vote three years ago. I want to ensure that young people are given a greater say.

“Decisions are made every day that impact heavily on young people and many of these decisions will have a long term impact on their future, yet they have no say in who represents them. At 16, young people are very politically aware and able to make informed choices. You become liable to pay tax and national insurance at the age of 16 and make a range of other decisions, it is only appropriate that they should be eligible to vote.”

Although passing the motion provides an indication of opinions at the Assembly, it is only the first step as the law will not change as electoral policy remains the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Office.

In recognition of this, Ms Fearon said,

“While this first step has been passed we need to encourage more support, so that we can see a similar motion in the British House of Commons and ensure young people can engage in any future elections.”