Eve Rooney's speech - Notre Dame Sixth Form College, Leeds   Represented Province 3

Eve Rooney

The voting age of young persons in the UK should be lowered to 16.

Teenager. What sort of words come into your head when I say ‘teenager’ to you? Young? Yeah. Adolescent? Maybe. Immature? Incompetent? Lazy?
                None of these words have particularly positive connotations and the majority are inaccurate in describing young people aged between 13 and 19. Therefore, it’s patronising and presumptuous to assume that we’re all stereotypical 16-year olds, lying in bed all day, the only light we see coming from the screens of our mobile phones. 16. The age I think young people should be allowed to vote.

Being 17, I’ve seen first-hand that in todays’ world, young people are increasingly aware of the issues the world faces. Due to a rise in social media and technology, we’re more informed than ever and, like adults, have developed clear opinions about the state of the world, politically, socially and economically. In the United Kingdom, there are over 1.5 million 16 and 17-year olds. That’s 1.5 million opinions. 1.5 million opinions that aren’t heard in order to give a more equal and reliable view of the country that we live in.

By the time we turn 16, we are legally allowed to get married, leave school, be taxed, have sex, join the armed forces, change our name and even give consent for someone else to receive medical treatment. We have many of the same freedoms as adults, yet our voices aren’t heard.

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that last year was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the world as we knew it. Not only did we welcome, perhaps through gritted teeth, the introduction of a new president, but Britain voted on our future. Britain voted on my future – something I wasn’t allowed to do. Brexit concerned 16 and 17-year olds most but we weren’t allowed to vote on something that we would feel the full effects of as we evolve into adults. One of the biggest decisions of our lives was not made by us. If there was ever a year to let young people into politics and possibly change the course of 2017, it was last year and we missed that opportunity. I don’t want to miss that opportunity again.

Throughout history, laws have changed and developed as society has changed and developed. In the same way that women gained the vote in 1918 because the law opened its eyes to equality in gender, the law now must open its eyes to equality in age. Young people have changed. We’re not the same as teenagers 50 or 60 years ago. Nowadays, we’re more interested than ever in what’s shaping our future in a world that’s seemingly becoming tougher and harsher on us. Standing back should never be an option, let alone a law. In Scotland, it’s legal to vote at the age of 16 and in 2015, 75% of 16 and 17-year olds voted in the general election. We’re shouting. Young people are shouting. We want to be heard.