Stewart Dickson MLA said: “Having the vote is one of the most important rights within a democracy. It therefore follows that the age at which people can vote is a significant political issue. Moreover, the Alliance Party believes that the voting age should be reduced to 16 for all elections.
“The clearest argument for such a change is the basic principal that if you pay tax you have the right to representation.
“If, at 16, people are old enough to work and pay tax, then it is fair that they have a say in how that money is spent, and have the opportunity to hold to account those who take policy and financial decisions.
“I would ask all politicians to think of how they might feel if they were 16, working and paying tax, with a real interest in politics and a desire to have a say in how politicians spend public money, but are unable to do so. Those who champion democracy cannot, and should not, allow such a situation to continue.
“Nobody knows for certain whether extending the vote to 16 year olds would lead to a significant increase in the numbers of young people voting, however we need to consider the causes of political disengagement and address them purposefully.
“If reducing the voting age encourages young people to engage with politics earlier in their life then that can only be a good thing. If it fails to mobilise our youth it will be disappointing, however, it is certainly not a reason to deny young people their democratic rights.
Mr Dickson concluded: “The Northern Ireland Youth Forum and other youth groups are certainly passionate about politics, and they want to have a say in who represents them and their interests. We must not lose the opportunity to demonstrate to young people that their views are valid; that we regard them as equal citizens and that we certainly respect them.”