Election 2015 Northern Ireland

Election 2015: Do 16-year-olds want to vote in Northern Ireland?

Phoebe Comiskey
Image caption Phoebe Comiskey said she did not think she was mature enough to know what to do with her vote

At 16 you can work, join the army and get married.

But you cannot vote, although that wasn't the case in the Scottish Referendum when younger voters had a chance to have their say.

What about 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland? If they could vote in next week's election would they?

At St Joseph's Grammar in County Tyrone young people shared their thoughts. One of them, Conor Woods, said: "I would like to vote, but I'm not sure other people my age know enough or are educated enough to vote."

That was a sentiment shared by Phoebe Comiskey: "I don't feel I know enough or am mature enough to know what to do with my vote."

Kaylah O'Neill was even less interested: "I don't see why I should concentrate on it when I've got my GCSEs to be studying for."

These pupils were all born after the Good Friday Agreement. So will the pain of the past influence the way they'll vote in the future?

Olivia Littler doesn't think so: "My parents have grown up in a society different than mine and the party they would choose would perhaps be different from mine.

"I'm more interested in taxes, university fees and immigration."

Image caption Conor Woods said he would like to be able to vote

But what about 18-year-olds who can vote this time around?

At Sullivan Upper school in Holywood, County Down, politics students are excited about the prospect, even if they haven't decided who to vote for.

Rebecca Reid said: "I'm struggling to decide between two. I want to vote for somebody who is going to do something for me, rather than because I come from a particular part of society."

These students think Westminster is still important: "Many of the decisions are made at Stormont" says Callum Jones. "But I think as part of the UK it's important that we have our voice heard regardless of the influence it may make."

Conor Gibson says the difficulty is whether or not politicians are relevant to people his age: "A lot of them are older and there's not a great representation of women or ethnic minorities.

"We do need to think about it and vote for something different."

Claudia Macgougan agrees: "I think you look and don't see anyone there who you feel represents you and it's not just at the assembly - at Westminster too. And there's loads of female MPs who've said they're stepping down this year."

Image caption Claudia Macgougan said she felt politicians weren't representing young people

Ross McKenna is deciding whether to vote with his head or his heart: "One thing that's come up is a matter of conscience and when it comes to that I think you've got to vote with your principles."

Whatever about other 18-year-olds, these students are not going to be wasting their vote next Thursday.

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