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SECOND PLACE: Liam McMahon, Ardscoil Ris, Limerick

Nowadays, people aged sixteen to eighteen constitute a force within society that is to be reckoned with. This swell of raging hormones can either pose a serious threat to society, or play a major role in our ever-improving future; this uncertainty ultimately boils down to how they become leading members of society. On a grand scale, if youths ranging from the ages of sixteen to eighteen united on a common goal, they could pose such a threat to the older generation that we would have no choice but to meet their inevitably far-fetched demands. Ipso facto, no government imaginable could make such a detrimental decision as to lower the voting age to sixteen – the concept is simply unfathomable.

The delicate balance put in place by a continuous flow of pocket money, video games and designer clothing lines is precarious at the best of times. This voting force would effectively be a dictatorship, and the slightest discrepancy would lead to an implosion and a complete back-fire of the initiative. It is simply too much of a liability to bestow this privilege upon such a capricious group of individuals. By nature, younger generations have always been ‘anti-establishment’. Swayed by the attractive pleasures presented to them by various influential persons, young people have proven how vulnerable they really are. From the ‘Beatle mania’ craze in the sixties to the ‘emo’ phenomenon in more recent times, the younger generation experience an experimental phase at age sixteen or so, one that is not purged until they find out what kind of person they truly are, usually occurring at age twenty or older. This ‘James Dean-esque – Rebel without a cause’ syndrome is best not interfered with by political or democratic sovereignty. If anything, the voting age should be raised, as even in today’s society there are many eighteen to twenty year olds completely oblivious of political agendas. The question, ‘What would you do if you were Taoiseach?’ was asked to a group of students whose ages ranged from fourteen to sixteen. The answers received provide an indication as to the opinions that this group of people would hold if granted the vote. Ideally, our country would not give thought to suggestions such as ‘banning homework’ and ‘banning teachers’. Such frivolous comments are proof of the liability these teenagers would pose if granted the vote.

On the matter of reconnecting them with society, some teenagers need to be disconnected first in order for them to take a step back and reconnect themselves in the manner in which they see fit. As explored earlier, the years from sixteen to eighteen are essential in making of themselves the people they will eventually be. The stresses of change – both physical and environmental – lead the teenagers to adapt as they see fit, and focus on themselves, rather than the world around them. It would be severely detrimental to the development of these youths to apply to them the obligation of voting, as they would have simply no clue as to what they would be voting for, with many living to rue their ignorance in the future. Many issues dealt with by voting directly affect householders, mortgage holders, tax payers and workers – with teenagers not falling under any of these categories it would be ineffective to deem them eligible to vote.

In order to truly reconnect young people with their community, one must look to social integration – more specifically, community integration. Instead of the stereotypical, brooding and self-depreciating teenager we are trying so hard to change, social integration gives way to model citizens and prime subjects for democracy. There is currently talk of abolishing transition year due to costs, and having secondary school as a purely academic institution. If this suggestion came to pass, teenagers would become a stagnant social niche, as opposed to the social super power they have the potential to become. With the right methods, such as community service and neighbourhood initiatives, teenagers will be able to properly reconnect with society. Lowering the voting age is a feeble attempt to integrate today’s youth and will eventually lead to a rupture within society itself.

Social integration is crucial in developing the youth in today’s society. Instead of getting them to vote for policies and legislation that does not concern them, they should first and foremost be made aware of all the intricacies that society holds. Information on social workings, standards and norms should all be made available. Many youths who aren’t involved in developing society turn to anti-social behaviour. Crime rates and prison populations increase as school numbers go into decline. In the absence of realistic and beneficial initiatives, the youth in society become public menaces. George Bernard Shaw once remarked, ‘Youth is wasted on the young.’ He was right, in so far as in today’s society many youths don’t appreciate the contribution they could make or the potential they posses until they are much older. Social integration is the initiative that must be taken to ensure that today’s youth is well spent.


One of the things that distinguished this paper from other papers was the paper’s framework, or the way Liam organised his ideas, and his natural command of language. The paper asserts that 16 year olds are not worthy or capable of handling the responsibility of voting rights and that 16 year olds need to be reintegrated into society through social programmes that encourage them to participate and contribute to the betterment of their community.

This essay was close to winning first place and the judges anguished over and debated the merits and weaknesses of the two vying for that first place It was decided that Liam’s essay indicated a more sophisticated approach to this prompt, and it was agreed that, though it was the most sophisticated argument, it was not as compelling as the essay that we chose for first. Nevertheless, it was an essay that indicated a sophisticated, thinking writer.

Liam begins his essay with: “Nowadays, people aged sixteen to eighteen constitute a force of  society that is to be reckoned with. This swell of raging hormones can either pose a serious threat to society, or play a major role in our ever improving  future; this uncertainty ultimately boils down to how they become leading members of society.” Liam then goes on to make a case that 16 year olds cannot be relied upon to make decisions that are good for the country. “Many issues dealt with by voting”, says Liam, “directly affect householders, mortgage holders, tax payers and workers – with teenagers not falling under any of these categories it would be ineffective to deem them eligible to vote.”

He then switches tack, making the argument that the solution to youth disenfranchisement is through community integration programmes. “In order to truly reconnect young people with their community, one must look to social integration – more specifically, community integration…Social integration is crucial in developing the youth in today’s society. Instead of getting them to vote for policies and legislation that does not concern them, they should first and foremost be made aware of all the intricacies that society holds.”

The judges thought that this way of attacking the issue was inventive and worthy of reward.