Independent TD Peter Mathews, 63, branded a bid to hold a referendum on giving full voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds “daft” after it received cross-party support.
“Children aged 16 years are having hormonal battles in their bodies, heads, minds, and hearts,” said Mr Mathews. “They do not even have the confidence to come into a room to meet new people. We must stop this nonsense.”
Mr Mathews was responding to a bill introduced by Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley that has now gone on to committee stage as the Government did not oppose it.
Mr Stanley said people in middle age could be hormonal, but nobody was proposing to disenfranchise them.
“Let us set the hormone battles to one side and deal with the issues, as they are no reason to deny young people the right to vote,” said Mr Stanley.
Although the Government did not oppose the bill, Local Government Minister Paudie Coffey rejected Mr Stanley’s call for the referendum to be held this May along with marriage rights for same-sex couples and cutting the minimum age for presidential candidates.
Mr Coffey said the constitutional convention voted 52% to 47% in favour of reducing the voting age, but warned such a move could lead to a demand for age reduction in areas including the sale of tobacco and drink, the use of sunbeds, and access to most social welfare schemes.
Mr Stanley insisted some 100,000 16- and 17-year-olds were mature enough to take part in democracy.
“Much interest was expressed in the Scottish referendum on independence due to the fact that 16-year-olds were allowed to vote,” he said. “That was a huge success in relation to the turnout figure, and in generating interest and participation in the debate by young people.”
The convention recommended lowering the voting age to 16 but the Government parties favour 17, he said.