In light of the future referendum to lower the Irish voting age to 16, the question has to be asked: does age play too large a role in our society?

From the moment we are born, our age plays a fundamental part in all aspects of our lives. It decides at what age we first attend school, regardless of our mental capacities at that age. Why is it that a five-year-old that might have the understanding of a four- or even three-year-old is put into a class and expecting to keep up with more advanced children simply because of age?

One of the most talked about applications of age restrictions is the legal drinking age, mostly because of its variety throughout cultures. If French children can drink wine with meals and Irish teenagers are allowed consume alcohol, why is it that Americans must wait until they are 21? If it clearly is not to do with medical implications, why do we have legal drinking ages at all? And why are they so high?

The most interesting aspect of age's influence in society is its diversification and often oxymoronic nature. For instance, in Ireland at the age of 17 you can legally have sex and have a child. Can you vote for a government that offers the best future for your child? No, you cannot. Can you go to a shop and buy a knife to cut food for your child's dinner? No. Can you get a full time job and pay taxes? Yes. If you stole a toy for your child, would you be tried in court as an adult? No.

Our legal system works on the premise that we undergo some kind of magical transformation at the age of eighteen which changes us into mature adults who are capable of deciding how their country is run. It assumes that maturity comes with age, which is both ageist and often wrong.

A Native American chief famously said, "We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children."

Is it fair to leave the future of our country up to the elderly, when it is the sixteen year olds that will have to face the ramifications?