Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015: Committee and Remaining Stages

Before Committee Stage commences I will deal with a procedural matter with regard to Bills to amend the Constitution. The substance of debate on Committee Stage relates to the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment which is contained in the Schedule to the Bill. The sections of the Bill are merely technical. Therefore, in accordance with precedent and Standing Order 128, consideration of the sections will be postponed until consideration of the Schedule has been completed. Is that agreed? Agreed.

AN SCEIDEAL
SCHEDULE

Amendment No. 4 is in the name of Deputies Paul Murphy, Higgins and Coppinger. Amendments Nos. 4 and 8 form a composite proposal and may be discussed together.

Tairgim leasú a 4:

I gCuid 1, leathanach 7, líne 3, "bliain agus fiche" a scriosadh agus "ocht mbliana déag" a chur ina ionad.

agus

I gChuid 2, leathanach 7, líne 5, "twenty-one years" a scriosadh agus "eighteen years" a chur ina ionad.

I move amendment No. 4:

In Part 1, page 6, line 3, to delete "bliain agus fiche" and substitute "ocht mbliana déag".

and

In Part 2, page 6, line 5, to delete "twenty-one years" and substitute "eighteen years".

This is a simple amendment and I can be brief. The amendment proposes to extend the eligibility down to 18 year olds as opposed to leaving the age at 21. The same logic that goes for extending it to 21 year olds also goes to extending it down to 18 year olds. These people work, they pay taxes, they have the right to vote and we think they also should have the right to stand for the Dáil, for the Seanad, stand for the European Parliament and in this particular case, to stand for the office of President. This does not mean that there would be an 18 year old President in the future but it would mean that 18 year olds, 19 year olds and 20 year olds, would also have the right to put themselves forward for election as President. That would then be in the hands of all those people who are over 18, as the voting age currently stands, to decide. That is a very simple proposition.

The essence of this debate about the substantive Bill and the amendments is whether one trusts people to make a decision, that one does not require any special qualifications or age limitations because one trusts that people will be able to make a correct decision, taking into account people's age, their experience and everything about them. That is why I thought that the fear expressed by Deputy Olivia Mitchell that we would lose the run of ourselves and elect someone the age of 35, was bizarre, in terms of the fear that expresses of trusting the electorate. I think the same argument applies in terms of 18, 19 and 20 year olds. I see no good reason we should have an arbitrary cut-off of 21 years. I think 18 year olds should not only be entitled to vote but should be entitled to run for election for all of these positions.

I referred in my contribution on Second Stage to the Government's rationale for selecting 21 years as the proposed age at which a citizen would become eligible for election to the office of President. As I said earlier, the recommendation that the age of eligibility for election to the office of President should be reduced from 35 years, came from the first report of the Constitutional Convention. In its consideration of the question of whether the presidential term of office should be reduced, the matter of age at which a citizen could become President, arose. While recommending that the age threshold should be reduced the convention did not recommend a specific lower age to which it should be reduced.

Different views have been put forward as to what an appropriate age should be. Some hold the view that 18 is the appropriate age - as does Deputy Murphy - while others are of the view that we should leave the age at 35. Reasonable arguments can be put forward on all sides. Of the 24 European states which directly or indirectly elect presidents, six have an age threshold of 18, seven have an age threshold of 35, ten have an age threshold of 40 and one state has an age threshold of 50. Against this background, I am satisfied that the Government's approach in linking the age of eligibility requirement to that which applies to the case of the Dáil and the European Parliament, is the logical and, therefore, the appropriate approach. I cannot accept the amendment.

Has Deputy Murphy anything further to add?

Cuireadh an leasú agus faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis diúltú dó.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Aontaíodh an Sceideal.
Schedule agreed to.

Amendment Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, are out of order.

Níor tairgeadh leasuithe Uimh. 5 go 7 a huile.
Amendments Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, not moved.
Níor tairgeadh leasuithe Uimh. 1 agus 2.
Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 not moved.
Aontaíodh ailt 1.
Section 1 agreed to.

Amendment No. 3 is out of order.

Níor tairgeadh leasú a 3.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Aontaíodh alt a 2.
Section 2 agreed to.
RÉAMHRÁ
PREAMBLE

Tairgim leasú a 8:

I leathanach 5, líne 9, “bliain agus fiche” a scriosadh agus “ocht mbliana déag” a chur ina ionad.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, line 10, to delete “twenty-one years” and substitute “eighteen years”.

Cuireadh an leasú agus faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis diúltú dó.
Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, are out of order.

Níor tairgeadh leasuithe Uimh. 9 go 11 a huile.
Amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, not moved.
Aontaíodh an Réamhrá.
Preamble agreed to.
Aontaíodh an Teideal.
Title agreed to.
Tuairiscíodh an Bille gan leasuithe, glacadh é chun an breithniú deiridh a dhéanamh air agus ritheadh é.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.