Alex's Answer

I have lots of questions about the age of consent in Ireland

Your Question

So legal age for consent to sex is 17, so my questions are… At 17 can you legally consent to see with anyone of any age? Older than 17 not younger… say 10 years older than you? Also when ur under 17, say boy and girl both 14/15/16 have sex but both are under 17 is it illegal?? Why is it 17? Think it should be 16 no difference 16 or 17 because you are still not an adult until your 18?? Thanks Alex

Answer

Hi there, you are very welcome to Ask Alex.  

You asked if at 17 years old you can legally have sex with someone older than you, even much older. You also asked if two people under 17 can legally have sex and why the age of consent is 17. Thank you for taking the time to ask such important questions. 

It might be helpful to start with a definition of consent. In relation to sex or any sexual activity (touching, taking nude pictures etc.) consent refers to the clear agreement between all participants that they want to engage in the sexual act. We are all free to withdraw our consent at any time.  

As you mentioned, the legal age of consent in Ireland is 17 years old. This means you must be 17 or older to be able to consent to engage in sexual activities. To answer your first question- yes, at 17 you can legally consent to sexual activity with anyone 17 or older as long as there is full and free consent from both of you. However, it is a crime in Ireland for a person to engage in a sexual act with someone under 18 years old if they are or have previously been in a position of authority over them. This could be someone such as a stepparent, teacher, sports coach etc. Even if the young person is 17, it is still illegal in this case.  

For people aged between 15 and 17, there is what’s known as the ‘proximity to age’ defense. This applies to a person who engages in sexual activity with someone between 15 and 17 years old who is either younger or older than them by 2 years. For example, it may not be considered a crime if one of you is 18 and the other is 16 or if both of you are 16. The important thing to remember is that no one has the right to pressure you into something you are uncomfortable with and neither of you should feel exploited or intimidated.  

You also brought up another really good question- why is the age of consent 17? This law is in place to protect young people like you. It does this by helping to prevent older people from taking advantage of those younger than them. As someone under 17, you are in a vulnerable group because of your stage of development. This affects your ability to make safe decisions and is a crucial time for developing social and emotional habits that are important for mental wellbeing. There’s more information on these laws here: citizensinformation.ie and on https://b4udecide.ie/the-facts/age-of-consent/ 

Consent is a big part of relationships and a really important topic, one that is not always easy to discuss so well done for highlighting it here. Sometimes speaking with a trusted adult can be helpful too in finding out more information and working through your feelings. This could be a parent, teacher, aunt/uncle, etc. Whoever you feel comfortable with and that will take the time to listen and help you. You might find this article on the Childline.ie website helpful as well: https://www.childline.ie/consent/. 

Of course, you are always welcome to talk with Childline about this too. The Childline team are here to listen to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so you can contact us at any time. We are available by free phone on 1800 66 66 66, by text at 50101 or by web chat through: www.childline.ie. The services are free, confidential, non-judgmental and we offer a safe place to talk about anything that is going on for you. We would love to hear from you! 

Take care,  

Alex 

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