The Workers Party has pledged its support for the ‘Votes@16’ campaign launched this morning by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.
Sixteen year olds in Northern Ireland can leave school, work full-time, leave home, pay
taxes, get married and join the armed services: but they can‟t vote in elections.
If Northern Ireland is to be a fully participative democracy the involvement, and active participation of 16 and 17 year olds is essential to that process.
Research has shown that this age group are even more likely to vote than 18-24 year olds. At a time when voter turnout continues to fall that is an encouraging sign.
Of course this has to be about more than extending the franchise. Unless young people critically assess the nature of society and use their votes and their voices to challenge sectarianism, segregated education and inequality and work actively to replace our current social and economic system, then this initiative will compound our problems not help to overcome them.
16 and 17 year olds in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey have voting rights and Scotland also extend that right during the independence referendum.
Northern Ireland can and must do the same.