There is no question in my mind – wherever you are standing, left or right, whether you are Catholic, Hindu, Atheist, Jain, Buddhist, Baptist, or Jew, whether you are man, woman, or undecided, straight, gay, or swinging both ways … you have to vote “No!” in the referendum today.
Have I got your attention?
Of course, there are actually two referenda (referendums, as others say) going on in Ireland today. One is a no-brainer for a Yes vote. But the other should be equally obvious get a No from all of us.
Because lowering the minimum age for candidates to the Irish presidency to 21 would be the worst move ever. Despite the comic possibilities it will have.
The official reason for this plan is that it would make young people more interested in politics. Really? That’s why you throw them the bone of being able to run for the single one office in Ireland that has absolutely no power and relevancy, which is just a glamorous cherry on the top of an already overloaded political cake?
Because, you see, the President of Ireland, the Uachtarán na hÉireann, may well be the head of state … but he has no real power. But he appoints the Taoiseach? True, but he does this on the “advice” of the Dail, and cannot refuse to do so. He appoints the judges? Also true, but he does this on the “advice” of the Dail. If he wants to address the nation (or the Houses of the Oireachtas), this needs prior approval from the government. And he cannot even go on holidays – the government has to give permission for the President to leave the country.
But then he (or she) can go about and play the role of a VIP – which, in effect, he or she isn’t, in a political sense. All things considered.
Nonetheless, Ireland makes use of the President in representative events. He or she shakes the hands of the VIP guests, goes abroad to spread a little bit of Irish wisdom, and so on. He or she is perceived as Ireland’s most prominent ambassador (Bono might disagree, though).
And, to be quite honest, can any state afford to have a pimply 21-year-old going to, say, the US and speaking “on behalf of the Irish”? Just imaging! Jedward, the evil twins that already represented Ireland twice (without success) in the Eurovision Song Contest, have already hinted at being interested in the Prez job. And what about the Mullingar lad in One Direction? It might be a good thing that female preteens cannot vote. Yet.
Anyway, a state needs a representative that is, more or less, in compos mentis. Not somebody who sees the job as a party gig.
Is there really any danger of that happening? I think there is – just look at the last presidential election here, when Michael Twee Higgins just about beat off (by default and through dubious media incidents, not by being more charismatic or some such stuff) the populist candidate Seán Gallagher and Shinner McGuinness. Higgins received just over 700,000 first preference votes, finishing with just over a million.
Imagine somebody propping up Jedward as a “fun candidate” and giving it wellie, with everybody who was fed up with politics in general having a laugh at the polls – they’d have easily steamrollered the diminutive poet, even if they just had hopped up and down in typical ADHD style during the presidential debates. C’mon, Ireland sent Dustin to the Eurovision … which sort of strengthens my argument, I guess.
Lowering the age for the prez job, as useless as it may be, to 21? Just say no!