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Lots of TDs and Senators are voting No in that 'other' referendum next week

TheJournal.ie has surveyed all Oireachtas members on how they’re voting in both referendums next Friday.

President Michael D Higgins is one of the oldest presidents we've ever had
President Michael D Higgins is one of the oldest presidents we've ever had
Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

AT LEAST 25 TDs and Senators are voting No in the presidential age referendum, including one senior cabinet minister and several government backbenchers.

The referendum proposes to reduce the age at which a citizen is eligible to run for president from 35 to 21 and will also take place next Friday along with the same-sex marriage referendum.

A survey of all 225 Oireachtas members carried out by TheJournal.ie has found that 115 are voting Yes, 25 are voting No, and 6 said they don’t know which way they’ll vote. Four declined to take part and the rest did not respond.

The referendum is being held following a recommendation from the Constitutional Convention last year. Polls indicate that most people intend to vote No on 22 May and the government has been criticised for holding a vote on what few people believe is a pressing matter.

While Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are supporting a Yes vote, Labour has decided not to take a position. However several government backbenchers in both coalition parties have told this website they’ll be voting No.

Labour’s Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin says he will probably vote No and explained his rationale in a recent interview with TheJournal.ie:

Source: Video: Orla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

In total, those who told us they are voting No include:

  • Senator Thomas Byrne (Fianna Fáil) 
  • Senator Gerard Craughwell (Independent) 
  • Lucinda Creighton TD (Renua)
  • Anne Ferris TD (Labour, outside parliamentary party)
  • Senator Aideen Hayden (Labour)
  • Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames (Independent)
  • Michael Healy-Rae TD (Independent) 
  • Minister Brendan Howlin TD (Labour) 
  • Senator John Kelly (Labour):
I don’t think a 21 year old would have the capabilities to run the office of the president.
  • Senator Denis Landy (Labour)
  • Ciarán Lynch TD (Labour)
  • Eamonn Maloney TD (Labour)
  • Charlie McConalogue TD (Fianna Fáil)
  • Mattie McGrath TD (Independent)
  • Olivia Mitchell TD (Fine Gael)
  • Mary Mitchell-O’Connor TD (Fine Gael) 

Fine Gael Ard Fheis Fine Gael's Patrick O'Donovan and Mary Mitchell-O'Connor are both voting No in the presidential age referendum Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

  • Senator Mary Moran (Labour)
  • Tony Mulcahy (Fine Gael)
  • Senator Ronan Mullen (Independent)
  • Denis Naughten TD (Independent)
  • Patrick O’Donovan TD (Fine Gael)
  • Joe O’Reilly TD (Fine Gael)
  • Jack Wall TD (Labour)
  • Senator Jim Walsh (Fianna Fáil, outside parliamentary party)
  • Senator John Whelan (Labour)  

Six Oireachtas members told us they were unsure which way they would be voting in the presidential age referendum, including:

  • Michael Fitzmaurice TD (Independent): 
I’m undecided for the presidential. I’ll probably go Yes as well, but I’m a bit undecided.
  • Seamus Kirk TD (Fianna Fáil)
  • Senator Darragh O’Brien (Fianna Fáil)
  • Maureen O’Sullivan TD (Independent) 
  • Senator Averil Power (Fianna Fáil): 

apower Averil Power is undecided Source: TheJournal.ie

I think it’s ridiculous that the Government has chosen to hold a referendum on such a trivial issue.
  • Senator Katherine Zappone (Independent) 

A total of 115 TDs and Senators told us they are voting Yes in the presidential age referendum, including the Socialist deputy Joe Higgins who argued that the eligibility age should be reduced further:

Having an age qualification set at 35 is one of many barriers to getting on the ballot paper. When the referendum Bill on this referendum was in the Dáil the AAA TDs proposed amendments moving all ages for elected office to 18, allowing candidates get on the ballot by nomination of voters and an end to religious oaths for the presidency.

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Fine Gael Senator Eamonn Coghlan said that while he might have an issue about a 21 or 22-year-old running for the presidency that’s not what the referendum is about.

“It’s giving eminently gifted academic, political and business persons in their early to mid 30′s the opportunity to run for this office. Equality applies here too,” he said.

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis Day 2 Kathryn Reilly, seen here being held aloft by Gerry Adams, is voting Yes. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Sinn Féin’s 26-year-old Senator Kathryn Reilly, who is the youngest member of the Oireachtas, said it is important that more young people involve themselves in the political process.

“It is so often lamented that young people are so disengaged from the important political decisions that affect their future,” she said.

The Presidential Age referendum must be about giving young people that sense of ownership in another branch of government and as with the marriage referendum, lowering the voting age is another act of equality, this time through political reform.

- with reporting by Órla Ryan

WATCH: Does anyone know what that ‘other’ referendum is about? We asked…

Read: What is the point of the upcoming referendum? (No, not the one you’re thinking of)

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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