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No referendum on voting age: Youth Council expresses disappointment but says campaign will go on

Press Release

Thursday, January 15, 2015 - 13:15

Voting age can still be extended to 16 and 17 year olds in local and European elections, without referendum

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) has today (15.01.15) expressed disappointment at a Government announcement that it will not proceed with a referendum on the voting age, as recommended by the constitutional convention.

Commenting on the announcement James Doorley, NYCI Deputy Director, said: “NYCI is very disappointed that the Government has reneged on its commitment to hold a referendum on extending the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds by the end of 2015.

“In refusing to refer a decision of the Constitutional Convention to the people, they are denying the up to 120,000 sixteen and seventeen year olds the right to vote in the next General Election. As seen most recently in Scotland, the extension of the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds can energise and mobilise young people to engage with the democratic system,” continued Mr Doorley.  

Also reacting to the announcement Alex Fogarty (15), part of NYCI’s Vote at 16 campaign, said: “Young people who can leave school, work and pay taxes cannot understand why they shouldn’t have the right to vote and determine how and who runs our country. It is very disappointing that the Government is denying the existing electorate the right to decide this issue in a referendum. Despite suggestions of young voter apathy, the number of 18-25 year olds voting in the last General Election was in fact 62%, up 12% from 2002.”

Amend electoral law, fix broken registration system
NYCI have been campaigning on extending the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds since 2009, and Mr Doorley explained that while this decision represents a setback, the campaign will continue.

“In the absence of a referendum, the Government could do two things to promote and support the participation of young people in the democratic system: they could amend electoral law to allow young people aged 16 and 17 to vote in local and European elections and secondly, they could in 2015 establish the long promised Electoral Commission and give it a strong mandate to reform the broken voter registration system and promote the participation of young people.

“Democracy delayed is democracy denied. Unless some action is taken the much lauded promise by this Government in 2011 of a democratic revolution will be dead,” concluded Mr Doorley


Contact: Daniel Meister, Communications Manager at NYCI: 087 781 4903, 01-478 4122 or

Notes to Editors:
National Youth Council of Ireland
The National Youth Council of Ireland is a membership-led umbrella organisation that represents and supports the interests of Irish voluntary youth organisations and uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people.

NYCI submission to Constitutional Convention available here:

Youtube clip:
Young people explain some of the reasons for extending the voting age to 16 and 17 year olds in this animated youtube clip:


What is the Constitutional Convention?

The Convention is a forum comprising of 100 people, representative of Irish society and parliamentarians from the island of Ireland, with an independent chairman.

The Convention has been established by Resolutions of the Houses of the Oireachtas. It has been asked to consider and make recommendations to the Oireachtas on a range of topics as possible future amendments to the Constitution.