In wake of the celebratory passing of the same-sex marriage referendum, many people have forgotten about that other referendum Ireland voted No to on the same day, one that would lower the age of eligibility for presidential candidacy from 35 to 21.
Shane Lynn writes in The Irish Times that “tens of thousands of those inspired to vote Yes to one amendment by the impressively uplifting ‘Yes Equality‘ campaign apparently saw no contradiction in rejecting the other.” Although, having learned more about the “ageism” (as Lynn describes it) in Ireland, I’m more inclined to agree that the referendum should’ve passed, I think Lynn’s equating this referendum’s importance and purpose with the same-sex marriage referendum is misguided. First of all, everyone experiences/will experience being a young adult (I mean, unless you die, obviously). But not everyone experiences what it’s like to be lesbian, gay, transgender, etc. There aren’t hate crimes against young adults because of their youth. You can get fired from your job, disowned by your family, called slurs, sexually assaulted, and even murdered for being queer. I’m not saying the young people in Ireland aren’t being treated poorly by an aging government, but their struggle and the struggle of the LGBTQ community is not the same.
In Ireland’s history, as Lynn notes, some of the most powerful (or memorable) revolutionary figures have been young: Michael Collins, Patrick Pearse, Wolfe Tone, etc. But this list is of exceptional people. I’m not saying it’s impossible or even unlikely that there will be young people who want to/could be of this caliber (for lack of a better word) and become so heavily involved in politics at an early age that she/he will want to run for president before age 35, but I don’t think that naming a bunch of exceptional white men really serves as evidence that not passing the referendum was a bad idea.
Speaking of white guys, it might also be worth it to notice that list doesn’t contain any young women, people of color, or (out) members of the LGBTQ community. The average age of TDs in the Dáil in 1918 was 38. In 2011, it was 49! In the current 31st Dáil, there are 25 women and 141 men, 2 of which are openly gay. That being said, perhaps if Irish politics was more appealing and welcoming to young people, who tend to be more progressive, more “revolutionary,” the predominant old-straight-rich-white-man-ness would change and there would be more opportunities in government for these groups of people. So, if lowering the presidential candidacy age is what will bring young people back into Irish politics, maybe Ireland should’ve given it more of a chance.
What do you think? Comment below!