5.2 Youth participation in representative democracy
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The voting age limit for representative democracy institutions at all levels, including for the European Parliament elections, in Ireland is 18 years. The age limit for voting in referendums is also 18 years. There are no immediate plans to lower the voting age limit however there have been recent calls and debates surrounding this matter and this will be discussed in Section 10- Ongoing Debates and Reforms.
Some groups of people are entitled to a postal vote, including:
- Irish officials posted abroad, or their spouse or civil partner who is abroad with them;
- Members of the police (Garda Síochána);
- Full-time members of the Defense Forces.
The following groups of young people are also entitled to postal vote:
- Those with a physical illness or disability
- Those studying full time in an educational institution in Ireland that is away from their home address where they are registered
- Those unable to vote at their polling station because of their occupation, service or employment
- Those unable to vote at their polling station because they are in prison as a result of an order of a court.
Due to Covid-19 and its restrictions there was an order made in June 2021 to provide a postal vote to electors who, because of public health reason relating to Covid-19, cannot vote in person. This order was made particularly regarding a bye-election in Dublin in July 2021.
The overall voter turnout among young people aged 18-25 years in Ireland has increased in recent years. The 2011 CSO report on voter participation found that 62% of young people aged 18-25 years voted in the 2011 General Election compared to 50% in the 2002 General Election. In the 2020 General Election turnout rates were lower, likely linked to a storm on the day.
The overall voter turnout in the 2019 European Elections was 49.7%.
There is no specific legislation that addresses young people as political representatives. To run for election to the Dáil or Seanad, candidate must be over 21 years of age. Candidates must have reached the age of 35 to be eligible to run for election as President.
There is one member of the current (33rd) Dáil aged 21-25 years and 11 members aged 26-35 years. This is an increase from the last (32nd) Dáil, where there was one member aged 21-25 years and nine members aged 26-35 years. In total, people aged between 21 and 35 account for 7.5% of the overall membership of the current Dáil, compared to the last Dáil’s 6.3%.
There is no quota of seats reserved for young people in the Dáil. There are also no functions within the representative assembly reserved for young people.