What Ireland can learn from Dansk Ungdoms Fællesråd’s work towards age 16 vote

By Kasper Delaney-Petersen, 23/02/2018

Dansk Ungdoms Fællesråd, or the Danish Youth Council (DUF), have been working towards lowering the age of voting in Denmark to 16 years of age.

While the reasons for this are many, the primary reasons given by the DUF are the maturity of 16-year-olds, and the fact that many European countries have either lowered the voting age already or are working towards doing so. Named among these countries is Ireland, but is the Republic really interested in lowering the voting age?

The Irish referendum for lowering the voting age will not be held until 2019, but there has already been debates and polls in the country which illustrate a much different picture than that of the DUF. According to a poll held by Amárach Research, only 16% of those polled want the voting age to be lowered, in comparison to a 79% ‘No’ vote and 5% undecided.

Irish voters seem uninterested in youth politics, as a referendum held in 2015 to lower the age one can run in a presidential election from 35 to 21 was overwhelmingly rejected. One of the reasons for campaigning given by the DUF in a statement is that “in the future, markedly there will be more elderly people, and in the elections their influence grows, so young people’s views are at risk of drowning”.

Robert Geoghegan, 28, from Dublin, works as a manager in a busy, popular restaurant in the north city suburbs of Balbriggan. “From the perspective of a mature student and a manager, 19 to 20-year olds are only really finding their place in the world…it seems unfathomable to me that a 16 year old should be able to vote”.

The DUF have said that “young people are interested in the development of democracy and society. 96 percent of 16 to 17-year olds are interested in how to solve problems in society, and 93 percent have an interested attitude towards Denmark and the world’s future development”.

Janus Nielsen, 25, a resident of Aarhus, said that while Danish youth are quite mature for their age, perhaps allowing them to vote is unnecessary. “Although I think our youth are very bright, 16 years old is too young. We’ve held youth elections as a warmup to the ‘real’ elections, and I think that is great. People below 18 are seen as the youth or kids, and in my opinion, only adults should be allowed to vote”.

However, the DUF believes that it is not only the maturity of 16-year olds that should be reason enough to allow them to vote, but also the fact that they are tax paying citizens. “Thousands of young people aged 16 and 17 pay taxes and contribute to the economy. Therefore, they should influence how the money is used, for democratic duties and rights should be followed”.

While the case for 16-year olds being made eligible to vote is viable in Denmark, and also having a bit more support, in Ireland’s case 16-year olds are not tax paying citizens, youth politics is viewed in a negative light, and has very little support.

There is a difference between the Irish political system and that of Denmark. Nielsen, who lived in Ireland for approximately six months, describes the difference in Irish and Danish politics is not only due to tradition, but also religious influence. “Religion is never discussed in Denmark…the political culture is similar concerning refugees, it’s very alike…but Ireland tend to have more referendums, like the one on abortion and blasphemy (May & October 2018)”.

This is for an Irish Audience, written for publication in The Edition, college newspaper of Dublin Institute of Technology.

Sources: www.duf.dk, Press releases and http://duf.dk/dufs-arbejde/16-aars-valgret/
Robert Geoghegan, Restaurant manager, c15721449@mydit.ie
Janus Nielsen, Student, d17123456@student.dit.ie
www.thejournal.ie, http://www.thejournal.ie/poll-lowering-voting-age-3737603-Dec2017/, “Only small percentage would support lowering voting age to 16”, December 10 2017