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vote at 16

'Young people should stay away from politics': Senator criticised for comments as voting age bill blocked

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield reintroduced the bill to the committee stage of the Seanad yesterday. / YouTube

SENATOR MARIE-LOUISE O’Donnell has been criticised for saying that young people should “stay away from politics” after the Seanad voted against reducing the voting age at local and European elections to 16.

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield reintroduced the bill to the committee stage of the Seanad yesterday evening. The bill was first debated in the Seanad in March 2017.

The bill was seconded by Independent Senator Lynn Ruane.

Speaking in the Seanad during the debate, O’Donnell was heavily critical of the bill, outlining that she is “absolutely against it”.

“I want to tell you my opinion, it is a resounding and echoing no. No to the vote at 16, no to the vote at 17, it’s fine at 18,” O’Donnell said.

“Four years ago, some of you were 12. Five years ago, some of you were 12. I’m against it, absolutely against it. I think that it’s fine at 18,” she said.

We’re also not a Students’ Union, we don’t think like a Students’ Union. We are the upper legislative house of the Oireachtas and we have to think totally in the common good and not as a Students’ Union.

O’Donnell went on to suggest that young people should “stay away from politics”.

I would suggest that you get on with your creative and imaginative lives that I know you’re brilliant at. I would suggest that you continue to get on with your education, arts, travel, romance, music, expression and sport.

Hitting back at O’Donnell, Ruane said that such comments are “such a negative, negative message to send to young people”.

“I think it comes from a position where politics maybe doesn’t affect your life very much, but when you come from a background like mine where political decisions that you don’t have access to literally shape your environment without you being able to contribute to it, politics is very, very important. I learnt that at a very young age,” Ruane said.

If you do have the ability to just focus on your hobbies or just focus on your education, well then politics seems like some sort of luxury.

“But for people who are outside the loop of politics, that are outside the loop of access to some of those things, politics is what will decide their faith forever more.”

Blocking of bill

The Seanad voted against reducing the voting age at local and European elections to 16 yesterday.

Green Party spokesperson for Equality Una Power said the blocking of the bill was a “betrayal of young people”.

“A year ago, we were told that this bill was being deferred to allow for more work to be done on it. Yet today is evidence that this was simply a delaying tactic by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, despite their promises to the contrary, to deny young people the chance to have their voices heard,” Power said.

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