Glow-sticks, dance beats and luminous clothing enlivened Dublin City University last week, as students from first to fourth year relived the glory days of their teenage summers. The occasion? A flashback ‘dioscó déagóirí’ event created by An Cumann Gaelach to celebrate the buckets-full of craic and misadventure had by those who were packed off to Gaeltacht areas around the country during their summer holidays from school.
The scene was a sure contrast from the cramming of stories and grammar consuming secondary school pupils across the country at the same time, as they prepared for Leaving Certificate oral Irish examinations. It’s not uncommon to hear those who experience Irish as a school syllabus shrivel in discomfort upon hearing another focal breathed outside the school gates. There’s no doubting that rote learning and the modh cioniollach have left bad tastes in the mouths of generations.
Despite this, Donegal student Barra O’Scannláin and his Cumann Gaelach committee are successfully convincing students that, beyond the studies, the Irish language is a positive and beneficial cultural asset which an outdated education system shouldn’t rob us of the chance to enjoy. The newly-elected society Chairman has ambitious plans for the 2014 / 2015 academic year to help increase the language’s presence on campus and extend its reach to Erasmus students and those who have but a rusty ‘cúpla focail’.
As demonstrated at the Ceiliúradh celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on the occasion of President Higgins’ state visit to the UK, Ireland has a proud cultural history boasting strong traditional music as well as our own sporting games. When there are many phrases best captured by the poetic strength of the Irish language, why has it been pushed to one side of our cultural identity?
Figures published in the 2011 Census indicate that while a large proportion of the Irish population believe they have Irish, they rarely put that knowledge into practice. Some 1.77 million people answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Can you speak Irish?’, yet under 200,000 people use it weekly. Worryingly, almost one in three 10 – 19 year olds said they cannot speak the language, despite the majority of Irish secondary school students studying Irish for fourteen years through primary and secondary school.
Now that 40 per cent of the subject’s Leaving Certificate marks arise from the oral examination (for both higher and ordinary level students), schools should place more emphasis on righting this wrong. However, in order to fully engage teenagers, they need to see that the language can be fun and useful in life beyond the school walls.
One young non-native speaker who’s found the Irish language useful in life is Berlin polyglot Robert Henneberg. He so enjoyed speaking ‘as gaeilge’, he helped found a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in his home city. The group now boasts members from Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria.
Henneberg credits his Irish with landing him a position as a teaching assistant in Loreto Secondary School Wexford and while he teaches german, it’s fair to say he’s inspiring an overall love for languages in his pupils. He’s also encouraged me to take up Irish again and look at it from a fresh perspective. As they say, ‘is fearr gaeilge briste ná bearla cliste’.
It’s your language – bain trial as / give it a chance!
When I say positivity I’m sure the stereotypical image of a yoga master who preaches good karma and bathes in vegetable juice comes to mind. However we should not be so quick to run from new concepts as we are always growing and evolving as people so why can’t our views on the world evolve also? For many people growing up in Ireland, you are taught that religion is the key to joy for God grants all goodness, and I am not here to challenge religion but only to apply the same values based in religion to a more open playing field for all to explore.
Firstly let me give you the 411 on ‘success’ and ‘perfection’. Success in the modern age is based on How wealthy you are, how many Facebook friends you have, and what level college degree you receive. "Oh you have a 2:2 BA Honours degree in English? Not good enough, NEXT."
Success should be measured on your personal happiness and your own goal set. We all follow different paths so don’t be swayed by the lure of stereotypical success based on old views if that is not what you want because what you want is most important, remember life is short and we are not infinite creatures so live for you and live in the here and now. Alongside the picking order of success is the most popular lie we all buy into, perfection.
We strive for the PERFECT body, the PERFECT partner and the PERFECT life, but we are searching for the unattainable and when we ‘compromise’ we feel cheated. In today’s world we focus far too much on perfection, a concept that is a lie for perfection is in the eye of the beholder and given that we all hold different truths how can we have a universal perfection? The acknowledgement of this concept is your first step to a more positive you.
Why did I begin by speaking about success and positivity? Well I wanted to make sure your views on such things lie in the right place for in my understanding of positivity we must be sure of our own true person and our own true goals before we can reach them, so if we become positive beings based on knowing we are on the right path for us, the power of positivity will be much stronger.
Positivity is a state of being; we create our own reality in our mind so we can all adopt a more positive mindset and thus a more positive life. If I am a positive person I am less likely to attract negative people and less likely to become negative myself. We must however realise that when things out of our control such as an illness, the loss of a job or the loss of an important person in our lives occurs occurs we must allow ourselves time to grieve but look for the light in every darkness and the lesson in every mistake. Positivity much like religion is a guide in life and a path to follow rather than a judge.
“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in awhile, so that we can see life with a clearer view again” – Alex Tan
"But Bebhinn, I simply can’t find the positives right now?" This is something I hear far too often. Firstly let me say if you feel you are suffering from depression or feeling suicidal please seek help through 1Life, Samaritans or Aware as soon as possible. If you are on the path of recovery and embarking on the path to positivity stop, remind yourself of that question you just asked and now re-read what I just said.
It is a path you are on, but even a direct path has many stops and many possible delays, what’s most important is that you always return to the path. When negative thoughts flood your mind remove yourself from your current situation, simply step outside take a deep breath and remind yourself of the reasons you chose this path, the reason you want to recover and the reasons you want to find a more positive life.
In the first lesson of positive thinking I want you to practise the self indulgent ‘I CAN’. In moments of doubt and those moments when your negative thoughts disallow you to embark on something you truly want fight them, remind yourself you CAN do it, you WILL try and if you fail it is not a negative experience it is a positive in the light that it is a learning curve. When we lose the ability to learn we lose ourselves. Let nothing hold you back from what you truly want in this life. Let your ability to try be your driving force. There is no shame in trying there is only shame in the ‘What ifs’?
Go forth and be awesome. Remember if you are on the right path for you no one can ever change that, be strong in yourself and all that you gain will be strong also.
While volunteering recently with a children’s charity, I spoke to a child about her favourite books. She liked books about adventures, books that made her laugh and books about girls just like her. Our conversation got me thinking that there’s so much overlap between the lessons we learn as children and our values as we grow up. As National Volunteering Week is coming up I decided to use some quotes from children’s books to highlight the benefits of volunteering.
Volunteering can help to shape your future. Often volunteering in an organisation can lead to increased opportunities and sometimes even career progression. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a photographer you might volunteer to take photos for a charity event which you could then add to your portfolio of work.
Volunteering can expand your horizons. Volunteering can expose you to a wide range of people from different walks of life. Volunteering might even enable you to travel if you seek opportunities overseas. Have you ever imagined what it would be like to work in the slums of Mumbai, a hospital in Tanzania or the rainforest in Peru?
Volunteering can enable you to discover new talents within yourself. When you volunteer you get to try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone which can result in increased feelings of pride and accomplishment. For example, you might never have thought that you were a people person but you volunteer with a local helpline which changes your mind.
Volunteering can be lots of fun. Giving your time to a cause you’re passionate about can provide an escape from the commitments of school, work and family. Choosing to volunteer with an organisation that aligns with one of your hobbies can also be really energising. For example, if you’re a creative person with little opportunities to express your creativity, volunteering with an arts and crafts group could be extremely fulfilling.
Volunteering can help you make connections. When you volunteer you become part of a community of like-minded people who can provide a valuable support system throughout life. Finding a mentor within an organisation can also be very helpful. For example, you aspire to work as a vet and you spend some time volunteering with an animal charity. During that time you work with the CEO who sees how fantastic you are and can then act as a guide and referee for you throughout your career.
Volunteering can make you happier. There are many studies showing that volunteering results in increased happiness and some studies even claim that volunteering can help you live longer. By volunteering you become part of something bigger than yourself and develop an active social and community life. For example, volunteering with your local youth group may enable you to reconnect with your community resulting in increased feelings of happiness.
I first discovered Chris Hadfield around the same time as just about everyone else. I had seen some of his pictures of Dublin and Ireland from space, and I began following him online and kept track of what he was posting. He shared some incredible things with us, from pictures of his view of the world from space to youtube videos on how to brush your teeth in zero gravity. I found him very interesting, and so did everyone else, which is why he remains so popular even back on earth.
When Commander Hadfield came to Ireland in December to sign copies of his book An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, an event that I had been planning to go to for months in advance, I was in work. So, my sister went into town, got a book for herself and for me and queued for hours around the side of Easons in the wind and the rain, alongside hundreds of other people, so that she could have the book signed for me.
Recently when it comes to reading I've not been the best at keeping it up. I've started so many books and I have so many more that I've intended to start reading. But this book I read straight away, and I continued to read it straight through over the next few weeks without drifting off towards something else. The reason is it's one of the most interesting books I've ever read.
I wasn't really sure what to expect. I suppose I thought it would just be like any other autobiography - an account of their life and their career up to the point that they're at now. Essentially, that's what it is. But it's also so much more. Reading this book has taught me so many things about Chris Hadfield, about what it is like to be an astronaut, about the logistics behind becoming an astronaut and travelling to space, about hard work and perseverance, but most importantly, I think it's taught me something about myself. Every situation faced by Hadfield is met by determination and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done to continue on, even if the odds of achieving your final goal are against you.
He talks you through the mindset of an astronaut faced with any situation, teaches you how to think like an astronaut to successfully overcome or "work the problem". Reading this I started to realise that everything he says can be applied to any situation. You don't have to be sitting on a launchpad counting down until you're blasted to space to know that there's ways you can work efficiently under pressure. Any advice he gives for that situation can equally be applied to the 5 exams I have to sit this month. And you don't have to be one of 5,329 applicants for a position as an astronaut to understand the importance of remaining focused and being prepared even if there's a chance you may not end up exactly where you expected to be.
I am one of quite a smaller number of people applying for my year abroad in Canada. The university that is my top choice is a popular one this year. I can relate every bit of Hadfield's astronaut application process to my own study abroad process, however insignificant it may seem in comparison to his mission, if you'll pardon the pun. I'm determined to secure my place at my top choice but willing to accept that I may end up at a different university. It's all the same stuff, just on a smaller scale.
I think that this book is a reminder that if you have a goal in life, the best thing you can do is to keep working towards it, stay focused and always try to do what you can to bring yourself closer. It doesn't really matter what it is, so long as it's important to you. In 1969 when Chris Hadfield decided he wanted to become an astronaut at the age of 9 it was an idea that was, at the time, quite impossible. The important thing is that from that day on, even though the likelihood was that it would never happen, he set about planning his life around this ultimate goal, and did everything he could that could get himself closer and then one day, it became possible. If he gave up all those years before and just said "nah, it'll never happen", then it wouldn't have happened. But he didn't, and it did.
There are always going to be obstacles in your way. You might see a future for yourself that seems so unlikely that you tell yourself to snap out of it and get on with the real world. But that doesn't mean that you can't keep doing things, even small things, that could lead you there. Some day, the future you want for yourself might become your real world.
Stranger things have happened. People have been to space.
I leave you with this comic from Zen Pencils, who turned a quote from Chris Hadfield, which basically sums up all this post has been about, into this incredible comic:
Right now, Ireland’s future leaders are 16 and never off Facebook. They go out to the teenage disco once a month and they argue with their parents and siblings almost constantly. They might have purple hair or too many piercings, and the main problem in their life is finding a boyfriend or asking that girl to the cinema. The future is growing up around us as we speak and this is the most important group in our society. Yet why are so few interested in politics?
The National Parliament of Ireland is known as The Oireachtas. It consists of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and The President. The Constitution of Ireland which is known as Bunreacht na hÉireann outlines all the powers that the houses of The Oireachtas have, as well as their functions.
Dáil Éireann is Ireland’s House of Representatives and each of it’s 166 members is elected in by the people of Ireland. These representatives are known as TDs (Teachtaí Dála). Every citizen is entitled to vote once they are over the age of 18. Ireland is divided into different sized areas known as constituencies and each may elect three, four or five TDs. As well as representing their constituencies, TDs duties include attending meetings, meeting with constituents and attending Dáil Éireann to debate on various issues of importance.
The members of the Dáil vote in who they want to assume the position of Taoiseach, this is Ireland’s version of a Prime Minister and is head of Dáil Éireann.
Seanad Éireann consists of 60 members which are known as Senators and these are elected in four different ways. 43 Senators are elected from five panels, 3 Senators are elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland, 3 Senators are elected by graduates from Trinity College and the final 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach. Although there is no particular representation of one political party in Seanad Éireann, the strength of the parties in the Dáil is reflected in the Senate.
County, town and city councils as well as county boroughs are known as local governments. The members here are called councilors and they look after their local area. Councils act as a middle man between the ordinary person and parliament.
When you begin to become interested in politics all the different parties can be confusing. These are broken up into left wing, right wing and centralist parties. This simply means their policies and beliefs are a bit different. Currently in Ireland our main parties are Fine Gael, Labour , Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil. All of these parties have youth organisations that you can get involved in and would be worth getting in touch with. If you ever join a party you can always leave. Many high profile politicians in Ireland were members of different parties when they started out.
The next general election will be held in 2016, the anniversary of the 1916 Easter rising. If you are eligible to vote, why not start researching now and make your vote count. We are inclined to vote the same way as our parents do and their parents before them. But you are better off forming your own opinion. There is also talk of politics being introduced as a subject in secondary schools. This move would completely change the Irish political landscape and breed an entire new group of potential politicians.
Young people feel daunted by the subject and lots of them think they can’t understand it. Maybe you feel it’s only for grey haired men or perhaps you think it doesn’t affect you. It’s these attitudes that are completely wrong and have got to change. Politics is all around us and is something that we can all be involved in. There is nothing stopping you making a difference in your community right now, and who knows, maybe someday you’ll end up in Dáil Éireann.
I stumbled across a video posted on youtube by ‘We’re Not Leaving Galway’ on my Facebook today. It struck a heart string. I cannot hold my head up and announce that ‘I’m not leaving’ because frankly – I’m already gone. Seven months ago I flew across the turbulent Irish Sea to my new found nest! My first port of call was a dingy London watering hole – the attraction you might ask? It was the replay of the All Ireland Hurling Final. 82,276 supporters screamed and roared from the sidelines of Croke Park praying they would bring the McCarthy cup to their home turf. Meanwhile a couple dozen Irish disapora sat in a cozy British pub fighting to get a glimpse of Ireland’s sporting legends in action.
I decided to emigrate – what an ugly word! What a disgusting and deathly stamp to what is turning out to be quite an exciting adventure. As I jumped ship to the melting pot of London, I discovered quickly some funny things it means to be Irish. I've converted my office of 70 to Barry's tea. My British housemates are addicted to Love/Hate. I've made an American friend who has started to put 'lads' at the beginning of all her sentences. Although I am not part of the ‘we’re not leaving’ movement, I can empathise with the not so funny things it means to be Irish.
‘88 alcoholic related deaths a month‘
Remember my American friend I mentioned – the one who now says ‘lads’ at the beginning of every sentence. Well let me share one of those sentences with you.
“Lads, I’ve never seen someone drink so much” (to a group on London Irish)
'1 in 4 of us has a mental health issue’
It felt alien at first that people I met in London talked about depression, anxiety and panic attacks like we would the common cold!
‘Our Health Service is under attack’
The health system here provides free health services to all. This included free contraception and free STI tests.
Emigration is not the solution to any of these issues. However, experiencing a different way of living has changed my perspective and behavior in a positive way. I would like to reach out to the many young people in Ireland today who are nearing final year exams and considering the option of emigration. In my final year of university I remember panicking when a family friend popped the question ‘so what is next ?’ I remained speechless. For almost two decades life was all mapped out. I assumed that 1460 days in university would be adequate time to make a decision about next steps.
However, as the end of university drew near the disappointment sank in. Maybe I'm not actually going to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut? The panic erupted whilst surfing NASA online to frantically find the vacancies. This is sweetly followed by the dawn of realisation that it was too late. Picking political science over astrophysics four years ago was maybe a step in the wrong direction.
Before I knew it my final year exams were in play. What an extremely stressful time for students. As you concentrate on putting pen to paper to race against the clock, it is difficult to resist daydreaming about what lies beyond the finish line. As I finally stumbled across the line from my fine national institutions (academic transcripts in hand) what I felt can only be described as a rabbit in head lights. I graduated from a small class of 40. We shared a proud moment when we threw our Mortar board high in the sky and acquired that glorified piece of parchment that genuinely cost us blood, sweat, and tears. My bright wide eyes grew tired of staring at the headlight fairly quickly and I decided to explore my options and get experience in London. And the rest is history...well sort of.
The ‘Brand Ireland’ video pulled on my heart strings when it glared in big bold print ‘WE’RE NOT LEAVING’. I had to remind myself not to feel guilty for leaving. Living in London has changed my perspective of Irish society; it has given me motivation to campaign for alcohol and mental health awareness. It has changed the way I think, the way I act, the way I represent what being Irish means to me.
Embrace adventure, learn from the experience but never forget your roots. If you can make a positive difference on Irish culture, should it matter if it is from home or abroad?
Who is Órla?
Órla is from Sligo, but now lives in Dublin. She has an MA in Journalism and has worked with the New York Observer, the Guardian and the Irish Times. She is currently doing a political internship with TheJournal.ie. Her interests include current affairs, politics, equality issues and radio documentaries.
What content will she produce for SpunOut?
For the SpunOut.ie Media Fund she has produced politics-based content, including an interview with the leaders of some of Ireland's youth political parties, an audio report on gender quotas in politics and an article on the Reform Alliance Conference.
If Órla had to give up books or social media, which would she choose?
That's a tough one. As a journalist I need social media to do my job so I'd probably have to stick with that, although it's hard to beat a good book. Could I read e-books, or would that be cheating?!
Who is Amy?
Amy is from Dublin, currently studying journalism and in her second year. Her interests include fashion, history, current affairs and photography. Her dream job would be to own her own magazine or be a politician (“maybe even Ireland's first female Taoiseach”, as she says herself).
She is writing for SpunOut because "it's such a great site for Ireland's young people and being involved is such an exciting opportunity".
What’ll she write about?
Amy will be writing about politics in Ireland. It is a subject she never thought she would be interested in but once she started studying it as part of journalism it became a big passion.
“I was never educated on it in my teens and always felt it wasn't something I could be interested in. I feel like if I had of known more about it I might of studied it in college. I think young people need to get more involved in it and hopefully my few articles for SpunOut will enlighten people on it and spark some interest; it isn't all boring, I promise!”
What’s Amy’s biggest guilty pleasure?
My biggest guilty pleasure has got to be tacky, awful music; I love nothing more than being Rick Rolled!
Follow Amy on Twitter @AmyRohu
Who is Ronan?
Ronan is from Newbridge in County Kildare. He is currently in his second year of studying Engineering in Dublin City University. So far, Ronan doesn't really have any plans for the future, he says he's just going to see how it goes and hopefully it'll turn out okay! He also loves film and books.
What'll he produce for SpunOut?
Ronan will be producing a series of interviews (both written and audio-visual), with young people on growing up in Ireland. The interviews are aimed at letting young people get their voice across.
If Ronan had a superpower, what would it be and why?
I'd love to have the power of magnetism as my superpower as I think I could have the most fun (and cause the most destruction with it!)
Follow Ronan on Twitter @RonanMaher
Who is Laura?
Laura is a student in the National Film School in IADT Dun Laoighaire studying film and television production. She makes movies and does radio stuff for Raidió na Life. Laura's hopes for the future are to make better content.
What'll she be producing for SpunOut?
Laura is going to be making videos about healthy eating, job seeking and myth busting.
What TV character does Laura relate to most and why?
TV character... I hardly ever watch TV these days but I can relate to the cast of Malcolm in the Middle a lot, it's basically like watching your family and friends on TV!
Who is Connie?
Cornelia is from Cork and is currently studying Liberal Arts in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. She hopes to further her education in the aspect of journalism and hopefully get a chance to travel the world She also volunteers for a great organisation named ShoutOut which give informational workshops on LGBT matters in schools all around the country.
What'll she be producing for SpunOut?
The topics Cornelia will be writing about are 'Dealing with the many aspects of emigration', 'LGBT issues among youth in the Ireland of today' and 'Dealing with the transition from secondary school to College/University'.
If she could only eat one food for the rest of her life, what would Cornelia choose?
This might be a strange one but it would have to either be Liga (yes I know they're baby biscuits) but I just love them, always have, always will..... Or chicken, because chicken is just too amazing in too many ways.
I was born with a physical disability called Arthrogryposis which affects my upper and lower limbs and spinal cord, confining me to a wheelchair. Disability is not something that tends to set me back; if anything it drives me to focus on my ability. Growing up in a busy rural household with my parents and eight other siblings, of which I’m the youngest, has definitely shaped me into the person I am today. They have always supported and encouraged me to reach for my dreams and goals in life.
Currently, I am in my final year of a Bachelors of Arts degree in Business and Geography at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. University was a big “roll” forward for me in life as it marked the start of a new journey into the big bad world. At first it was a daunting experience as I was leaving the family home for the first time and had to adapt to new surroundings, make new friends and live independently, but overall the past three years of university have been wonderful.
NUI Maynooth is very accessible and socially a great university to integrate or "fit into". There is a great close knit community of students and the vast majority of clubs and societies are open for everyone to get involved in. Socially, my life is as it is for any 20-year-old social animal – mad, hectic and generally just out for the laugh!
However, a recurring problem that I’m sure every wheelchair user faces in social settings is the lack of fully accessible buildings. Going out should be a relaxing activity with little planning or thought involved, but for many wheelchair users it’s very hard to find a pub, and even harder to find a club, that is fully accessible. While many pubs and clubs claim they are “accessible” a lot of them are not. It’s all good and well saying they are wheelchair accessible by displaying an access symbol, but on a practical level they have bathrooms where you’d have to be Spiderman to get in and out.
In one pub recently, I drove through the door of the supposedly wheelchair accessible bathroom only to find that once in, I could not turn left or right and therefore could not close the door behind me. To make matters more comical, a sign on the window read, “This toilet is for disabled persons only. Please contact a member of staff for the key.”
Not being able to use toilet facilities is a fundamental problem – enough to ruin any night out. But that’s not full extent of the challenges wheelchair users like me face in a vast majority of social settings. Other common problems include steps and out of order lifts. These barriers to socialising are problems we as a society need to challenge and change, and to do my bit to highlight this, I will be conducting my final year undergraduate thesis on ‘Geographies of disability’ – which basically means examining access in the built environment and trying to understand who allows and regulates (or fails to regulate) these “accessible”, or in most cases, “not so accessible” facilities.
By national standards, my home town of Longford seems worse than average in terms of accessibility, with the exception of a couple of pubs that are leading the way (see my list of ‘Top accessible locations’). Admittedly lots of the buildings in Longford town are quite old, but even in the modern student part of Maynooth, where I live in term time and enjoy largely accessible educational facilities, accommodation and streetscapes, there is only one fully accessible nightclub. Surely having fun and socialising is an important part of life too, and shouldn’t be overlooked? It would be great to see an improvement in access to pubs and clubs across the country, but meanwhile I’m determined that these inaccessible venues won’t hinder my social life!
James’ top five accessible places to socialise
Fortunately there are some venues that have done the work and deserve our business. Here are five of my favourites:
While these venues suit my requirements, individual needs vary, so it is always advisable to contact a venue directly to discuss your specific access queries.
A recent survey from UCC showed that half of students do not use contraception in every sexual encounter, while almost two thirds have never been tested for a sexually transmitted infection. With this in mind, vlogger Katie Varvos, took to the streets to find out more about Ireland's relationship with sex and getting tested for STIs.
Journalist and SpunOutter, Órla Ryan recently caught up with some of the presidents of the youth wings of Irish political parties to get their views on a number of issues that affect young people in Ireland today.
Name: Dale McDermott
Role: President of Young Fine Gael (YFG)
Elected: November 2013
From: Templeogue, Dublin
Occupation: Second year Accounting and Finance student in DIT
Three focus areas: Mental health, third level funding and youth unemployment
Age of consent
Dale believes that the age of consent should be lowered from 17 to 16. “Law must reflect reality and the reality of the matter is that younger people are having sex,” he said. In conjunction with this, he believes that sexual education needs to be improved, as it’s currently “very, very below par”.
“Short of [students] just being told ‘that goes in there’ there’s no real talk about facts … There’s no real talk about what consent is. I’m not long out of the [school] system myself. I know first-hand how below par we are on the topic. Something needs to be done about it, ” he added.
Dale supports the internship programme, JobBridge, and views the Youth Guarantee Scheme, a European Commission-backed initiative to provide work, training or an apprenticeship to all young people aged between 18 and 24, as “the solution” to youth unemployment.
YFG is also “fully” behind a graduate tax. “We’ve seen over the years Irish universities slip and slip with respect to the league tables across the world, so if you want free education that’s fine but you’ll have poor quality education,” Dale said.
YFG recently set up a sub-committee tasked with developing policy on their three focus areas of mental health, third level funding and youth unemployment.
In terms of the former, Dale said that YFG is planning to “work with many people in this area, including the Minister [of State for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch] and mental health organisations to see how we can develop policy”.
Young people and politics
Dale believes that more young people should get involved in politics as there are “so many [political] issues that affect” them.
“There is a big disconnect between young people and elections in general … To anyone who reads this interview: get involved, have your say. If people don’t like what we’re saying, join a political party and change it. You will not affect change by sitting on the fence and doing nothing. What people need to do is get involved. Get involved with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, whatever. If you believe in something, stand for it.,“ he advised.
Name: Ciarán Garrett
Role: President of Labour Youth
Elected: October 2013
From: Galway, lives in Dublin
Occupation: Final year Politics and Sociology student in UCD
Three focus areas: Unemployment, living standards and inequality
Age of consent
Labour Youth does not have an official policy on the age of consent, but Ciarán’s personal view is that it should be reduced to 16.
He said: “At that age people have reached an appropriate age of emotional and intellectual maturity to make their own decisions and behave responsibly. Also it is a reality that teenagers are now engaging in sexual activity before reaching the current legal age of consent. Therefore lowering the age of consent to 16 will make the law more relevant to the Ireland of 2014 and enable sexually active 16-year-olds greater and freer access to sex education, health services and other supports.”
Garrett views the Youth Guarantee Scheme as “a stepping stone in the right direction” in terms of youth unemployment. Labour Youth is playing an “observer role” in the YGS pilot project in Ballymun. He said that this initiative has been “very successful” and will provide a “useful blueprint” for similar projects throughout Ireland in the future.
In terms of JobBridge, Garrett said that there “needs to be far more regulation to avoid exploitation” as it “provides incentive for some employers to have free labour when in fact they could be employing people”.
Ciarán thinks that stigma has had a huge effect on dealing with mental health issues nationally. He welcomes how “ministers like Kathleen Lynch haven't been hesitant in discussing and working on such matters, especially in relation to youth suicide”.
He added that the cost of services is often a “tremendous barrier” to people in need of help. “[Labour Youth] will therefore push to ensure the government fulfills its obligations under the Constitutional Convention on economic, social and cultural rights by ensuring all such vital services are free at the point of access,” he stated.
Young people and politics
Ciarán believes that the voting age should be lowered to 16 as “so many government decisions affect young people.”
“When you’re 16 you can go out and work and I think you’ve reached an appropriate level of intellectual maturity to base a decision on who you’d vote for. I think it’s also a strong symbolic step the state could take to have a more participatory and inclusive democracy,” he said.
Ciarán thinks that Irish politics is “simply not representative of modern Ireland” due to the lack of young people, women and ethnic migrants involved. “I think young people really need to step up to the plate and have a say,” he added.
Name: Kate Feeney
Role: First-ever Female President of Ógra Fianna Fáil (Ógra)
Elected: February 2013
From: From Sligo, lives in Dublin
Occupation: Accountant and local election candidate in Blackrock
Three focus areas: Education, health and youth unemployment
Age of consent
Kate said that there are issues around statutory rape “that need to be looked at” in relation to the age of consent. Before any decision is made on changing it, she believes that sexual education in schools “needs to increase” as it’s “one hundred per cent inadequate” at present.
Kate noted that a collaborative effort is needed in relation to mental health support.
“It’s very hard to find the golden bullet with this and I know every political party and every youth political party are looking at it at the minute and we’re all trying to find solutions. Indeed we’re all helping each other because no one wants to take the glory of coming up with the solution. Everyone just wants to get there, no matter how we do.”
Kate thinks that the level of funding for the Youth Guarantee Scheme is “not sufficient to do what we need to do”. “I’d like to see a more meaningful Youth Guarantee Scheme,” she said, adding that a number of “different solutions” are required to help ease unemployment.
Ógra has proposed that every government department and public body should offer a 12-18 month paid placement to a recent graduate. Kate said this initiative would create 10,000 jobs at a cost of €50 million annually.
She noted that JobBridge is a “good” initiative but has “certainly been exploited by certain businesses and certain sectors.” Ógra is against third level fees, instead favouring a “low-interest loan” system of funding for college students.
Young people and politics
“You don’t have to join a mainstream political party to make your voice heard,” Kate stated.
She said that “a lot of people are politically active without knowing that they are”, for example through organising petitions in schools and sports clubs.
Kate encourages all young people to research the candidates running in their constituencies in the upcoming local and European elections and make an informed vote. She thinks that the voting age should remain at 18. “[Voting] is a right but it’s also a big responsibility. When I was 16 I don’t think I would have been able to take that responsibility and comprehend the full consequences of it,” she noted.
“Young people have very important views. Their voices should be heard. Unless you put the right people in the right place, a lot of the time the voice of the young people can be overlooked,” Kate added.
A representative from Sinn Féin Republican Youth was asked to participate in this interview but declined.
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