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The Irish government plans to lower the age of consent for sex to 16 years, one year down from the current age of 17, sometime early in the New Year.

The current Minister of State for Children, Barry Andrews described the current age of consent as “inappropriate” and out of touch with modern day realities.

“Ireland with Malta are the only countries in Europe with an age of consent of 17.

“It means that prosecutions can issue on foot of one child having sex with a child who is 16½. For me, to apply criminal sanctions of that order, for that kind of activity, which we all know is more common today, is unconscionable,” he added.

Mr Andrews denied that lowering the age of consent would encourage teenagers to have sex at a younger age. The Minister also called for more sex education in schools.

He added that “times had moved on."

“I don’t think young people are ignorant, they understand that we are not setting this as a target. We are clearly saying that delaying first sex is something that everyone recommends. Those people who have sex at young ages often regret it in later life.”

The bill is expected to be published in the coming weeks and represents the conclusion of the Oireachtas committee on children that the age of consent should be lowered to 16.