Friday, 1 May 2015

Referendum: Why I'm Voting No

First of all a brief word on the Marriage referendum. Whether you agree with marriage of two people of the same gender or not, it's not about surrogacy or anything like that. I read the information leaflet from the referendum commission and it is about defining marriage in our constitution and legislation is going to deal with the issues of how it effects children, not the referendum. But that is not the referendum I want to talk about in this blog post so I won't say here how I will vote in it.
I am talking about the referendum on the minimum age for presidential candidates. At the moment it is 35 but a yes vote would reduce it to 21. I intend to vote no for two main reasons in no particular order. First of all I think the only change needed in that particular section of the Constitution is to change "his" to a gender neutral word. I doubt a referendum would be needed for that since we have already had two women presidents. The main reason for why I believe a no vote is appropriate is because I don't think a 21 year old has had enough life experience or political experience to be a head of state. Sure Brian O'Driscoll captained the Irish rugby team at that age and was a great leader in the team throughout his career. But he was representing his country in a different way. I'm not saying he wouldn't be a good president now if he put the same work ethic into politics. Just not as a 21 year old whose career is in Rugby, not politics or law.
Eamon de Valera fought for the country to help found the state. Patrick Hillary was involved in keeping the Fianna Fáil party together during the arms crisis in the 1970s. He also showed his experience and duty to his country when upholding the Constitution when the same party tried to manipulate him into allowing them to seize power without an election when the Fine Gael - Labour Government broke down in the early 1980s. Mary Robinson was learned in the law and constitution and I remember her telling a story a few years ago about how an attempt by Haughey to exploit a potential loophole so as to remove her just as she took office backfired on him because she pointed out that she was fully aware of, and studied the Constitution having qualified in law and the advice he got and interpretation he had were incorrect. She also had a history of standing up for civil rights. Mary McAleese is from Northern Ireland and had experience of the troubles and was a news reporter among her life experiences before politics and fully aware of what was going on in the country. Michael D Higgins had a long political career before becoming president and no one could doubt his credentials before election.
Now, nobody is perfect. I have many criticisms of our current government and the fact that our president signed some very controversial bills into law and maybe there are some things a 21 year old upstart would do better in the Dáil. But we do not have a monarch that inherits the position of head of state. We elect ours. So we must choose wisely. Would you rather have a young twenty something that the government can bully and manipulate in office or a person that is experienced in the mechanism of constitutionality and the state? I don't think a 21 year old is ready for the Áras. I would prefer a seasoned statesperson there. So I intend to vote no.

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