Ben Lowry: If Joel Keys, aged 19, wants to help unionism, he should get a law degree

On BBC Nolan radio show yesterday I dismissed the appearance of the loyalist Joel Keys before a Westminster committee as that of a “kid”.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 12:43 pm
Updated Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 3:26 pm
Joel Keys, 19, seen last week in his appearance before the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee

It drew an angry response both from republicans, who said that I was denying agency to an adult, and from loyalists, who said that he was an articulate and important voice.

Let me then re-phrase my criticism in a more constructive way.

It is good to see young people in politics, but societies rightly give weight to experience and age.

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The loyalist Jamie Bryson, who is studying for a law degree. Ben Lowry says that republicans have for decades known the importance of law, and are using it to secure political, even constitutional, change

It is why you cannot do things such as smoke until you are 16, vote until 18, or, in the US, drink until 21.

It is why safety experts say that young drivers are more likely than older to be reckless until their mid 20s, when the part of the brain that understands of risk fully develops.

When I was a teenager I was keen to get behind the wheel, and I recall being depressed to find that some insurers would not cover drivers under 30 for faster cars (which then appealed to me, but has long since not done).

Respect for age is why you can’t be a US senator until 30.

So while Joel Keys is articulate, I still do not think him a credible witness for MPs. Instead, if bright young unionists want to fight republicans, they should get a law degree — as Jamie Bryson is doing.

Republicans have for decades known the importance of law. They are increasingly adept at exploiting ‘rights’ provisions to advance political, almost constitutional, change.

I see no emerging generation of lawyers inclined to argue against this very serious development.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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