O’Neill backs call for votes at 16

Alliance Councillor Sian O’Neill has backed calls for votes at 16 to be extended to Northern Ireland in time for the 2019 Local Government elections.

Speaking after she attended a rally outside City Hall, Councillor O’Neill said the issues was not only something Alliance had a long-term history of campaigning on, but was something she was personally passionate about through her career as a youth worker in the city.

Councillor Sian O’Neill said: “I’m delighted to see the issue of granting 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote back on the agenda. It is wholly offensive to those young people who are actively educating themselves and engaging in their communities to assume that young people don’t care or aren’t interested in politics.

“Certainly through my experience as a youth worker engaged in political education programmes such as WIMPS, Rock The Vote, or Belfast YMCA’s Youth in Government programme – it’s clear the usual excuses made to block this change just don’t stack up.

“From they’re too immature to they aren’t interested in politics, or they don’t know enough – those determined to continue blocking a lowering of the voting age are disregarding the many engaged, passionate and politically astute young people in our society, as well as the many who have already taken mature decisions like beginning their army training.

“Alliance has consistently supported this campaign, with our MLAs securing a motion at the Assembly and we have always been supportive of an investment in political education, whether that’s in a formal or informal setting.

“I am yet to hear anything that amounts to more that ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’. If we continually tell young people they are the future, yet fail to put our trust in their decision making then why should we act surprised when they feel removed, disenfranchised and a lack of ownership over their communities in the here and now. Let’s hear their voices now.”

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