Young Irish People Face Uncertain Future

I wrote this one for a college assignment. The task – go to an event of some description and report on it by 5.30pm. It’s sort of fun, but the stories can lack a certain edge at times. Today’s could have been good, but I had to leave before things got interesting. Rivers were mentioned. Oh and it’s not very good. But here it is in all it’s ‘well it might as well go somewhere’ glory.

James Keating

“How can an adult politician make decisions without input from the young people?”

Economic problems and college fees were high on the agenda today as Dáil na nÓg met in Croke Park.

Young people aged 12-18 attended the event to voice their opinions on both local and national issues. Despite past successes for Dáil na nÓg, those in attendance face an uncertain future as funding for college education comes under scrutiny in the upcoming budget.

The youth delegates in attendance were outspoken about the issues which concern them. Ruaraí Quinn was criticised for “going back on his word”.

Before the general election Mr. Quinn signed an agreement with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) promising not to increase student fees or cut higher education grants if he were elected.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, was equivocal about cuts to education. “Being able to afford an education is very important for young people. Fine Gael feel a loan system is the best way to progress.”

She continued , saying “That’s on the table for the budget and no decision has been made yet, but we face extraordinarily difficult financial decisions and decisions about education will have to be seen in that context.”

The attitude of the young people in attendance was different. Aoife Crotty of Tipperary made her feelings clear about the possible removal of grants. “I know I won’t be going to college, and I know a few of my friends won’t either.”

Owen Costello of North Dublin was also against education cuts, but had a more positive outlook. “We need a youth movement on the issue.” Dáil na nÓg hopes to create such a movement by making the concerns of young people known.

Padraig Duffy of Louth echoed the importance of young people’s voices being heard. “How can an adult politician make decisions without input from the young people?”

The optimism of members of Dáil na nÓg is understandable given their past success. Notably, the 2009 meeting involved discussion of the cervical cancer vaccine. In January 2010, then Minister for Health Mary Harney commenced a cervical cancer vaccine programme for 12 year-old girls.

The successes of Dáil na nÓg were lauded by Minister Fitzgerald in her speech to launch the meeting. “It’s a great celebration. 10 years of work and development making sure the voices of young people are heard throughout the country.”

Owen Costello also had positive words for Dáil na nÓg. “The voice of young people is always getting stronger. 10 years ago when it launched Dáil na nÓg didn’t have much power. Now they’re getting more done every year.”

The assembled young people were led in a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ before the Minister spoke. A video detailing the successes and importance of Dáil na nÓg was played after her speech.

The delegates representing each of Ireland’s 34 constituencies then discussed their recommendations for the coming year. These will take the form of two actions, last year body image and exam reform were chosen.

Unfortunately for Dáil na nÓg their body image recommendation; that a logo be placed on airbrushed images, was unsuccessful. Too many of the magazines which they found contained contentious images were published abroad.

The assembled delegates of the various constituencies will hope that their recommendations this year are more successful. The disappointments of last year’s actions are tempered by enthusiasm for the organisation.

“The lives of young people would be worse if Dáil na nÓg was not around” said Padraig Duffy. Whether their concerns about education cuts will have any impact remains to be seen.

A decision will be made by the government in the December 6th budget.

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