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Age differences in relationships

The legal age of consent to sex in Ireland is 17


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life


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Society has changed a lot over the past few decades and relationships with age gaps between the two partners are becoming more and more common. These relationships can thrive just as well as relationships between partners of similar ages. However, as with everything in life, there are pros and cons of having a relationship with someone much younger or older than you.

Legal age in relationships

  • The legal age of consent to sex in Ireland is 17.
  • Consensual sex with anyone under the age of 17 may be legally referred to as statutory rape. What this means is, even if the person has consented to sex themselves, their consent is not considered legally valid because they are underage. The maximum sentence for having sex with someone over the age of 15, but under the age of 17, is five years. It is ten years if the person is in a position of authority i.e. a relative, teacher, sports trainer. If a person can prove that they believed the victim was over the age of 17, however, the court may view this situation differently. Asserting that the person consented to sex is absolutely not considered a valid defence.
  • Currently, women under the age of 17 cannot be prosecuted for having sex with someone under the age of 17.
  • It is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of 15 years of age. It is considered a criminal offence under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006. The maximum sentence for this is life imprisonment. If a person can prove that they believed the person was over the age of 15 however, the court may view this situation differently.
  • Once you are over the age of 17, you are legally able to have sex with anyone you want, even someone much older than you.

Social factors to keep in mind when dating someone older

It may be hard for you to gel with your partner's friends or family. Whether your partner is younger or older than you, you may simply have very little in common with their intimates. After all, if you are a first year in college, you'll probably share very few experiences with people in their 40s.

It may be hard for them to gel with your friends and family. Even if you do get on well with their family and friends, they may find it hard to get on with yours. Maybe you're the type of person who can get on with anyone of any age, but many people are not like that.

People may disapprove and give you a hard time. Sadly, people can be very judgemental about age differences and may tell you that you shouldn't be together. Even strangers may feel that they have the right to comment. If the age difference is quite large, random strangers may stare or even comment on the age gap.

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Published January 21st, 2013
Last updated February 9th, 2018
Tags relationships
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