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Video: Being young in Ireland today

Young people often feel undervalued, but it is encouraging to know our voices are being heard through the President’s Being Young and Irish initiative, writes ‘The Forgotten Irish Graduate’

Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 11:21

   

Young people often feel undervalued, but it is encouraging to know our voices are being heard through the President’s Being Young and Irish initiative, writes ‘The Forgotten Irish Graduate’

‘In Dreams begin responsibility’

So said WB Yeats, and I agree. Being young and Irish is met with mixed sentiments today. When Katie Taylor took gold in London 2012 whilst Amhrán na bhFiann bellowed in the background, when Leinster were crowned Heineken Cup champions in 2011 and 2012, when the Irish Paralympic team returned to our shores with 16 medals from London 2012, when the Irish Rugby team won both the Grand Slam and the Six Nations Championship in 2009 – I was proud to young and Irish. Having such a high calibre of young people representing us on the global stage in various sporting genres, focused and committed to achieving their best for each and every one of us, fills me with pride.

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(The Forgotten Irish Graduate’s submission to President Michael D Higgins’s Being Young and Irish seminar in Monaghan)

But that pride quickly subsides; when I am reminded these moments are the minority. In reality, being young and Irish equates to concern; concern about the future, Ireland’s future; who will be left behind to lead our country if the young generation of today are forced to leave our shores in search of employment opportunities abroad? Will anyone be left behind to repair this country? Despite the plethora of concerns, despite the numerous attempts to promote the need for the youth to become politically aware and involved, there was no answer from government bodies. We, the youth, had no voice. Many felt silenced, many felt cheated by a country and a former generation who’d wronged us, only to make us pay dearly for their mistakes, and many, with little hope of a future in Ireland, left. It’s disheartening to watch from the sidelines as a country shunned its youth.

Step forward Michael D Higgins, Ireland’s current President. A President, who seems to care, not solely for his term in office, but for the future of the entire country, and the future as he sees it is the youth of today. So often, presidential candidates have promises they vow to keep if they get into office, only to so quickly fall by the waste side by other more ‘pressing’ issues. Not Michael D. He wanted the involvement of young people from the start and he actively sought to create an initiative that encompasses young people remoulding our country. It’s a beginning.

Following a pilot programme earlier in the year, the Being Young and Irish initiative kicked off, with four regional workshops, which invited young people aged 17-26 years to take part in sharing their vision for Ireland, and tackling questions such as what do young people need to do to help achieve this Ireland. If you couldn’t attend a workshop and still wished to take part, you could do so by logging on to president.ie and submitting your thoughts. Finally, we have a voice.

I was taking no chances, so I registered to attend a workshop and submitted by views on the website also. I attended the Monaghan workshop on September 22nd, almost 70 young people attended. The workshop was opened by President Higgins, this small gesture of taking the time out on a Saturday morning to address us emphasised his commitment to this project and to us as a generation. I was impressed. The manner in which he addressed us was refreshing – open, honest, and encouraging. Subsequent to this address, we spent the morning brainstorming our vision for the country, what it was we wanted to be proud of in Ireland, what we wanted Ireland to be renowned for in years to come. It was interesting to see the ideas of young people, a stark reminder the creativity young people can offer. Throughout the day we tackled the problems we as young people wanted confronted, and how we proposed to get involved and provide solutions for these issues. Team work was integral, and every member had a voice, regardless if we agreed or disagreed with each other – sure a healthy debate is important now and again eh?!

I ended the day content in the fact that ideas we brought to the table, were now in the hands of the project team, and would later be presented at a national seminar, and furthermore, our proposals would be sent to the necessary governmental department for review. I could only hope that our efforts were not in vain, and that President Higgins will continue his efforts to involve young people in the country’s welfare.

Despite my content at the workshop, I also left feeling concerned. The 70 people who attended the workshop were predominantly aged between 17-20 years, whilst the workshop was open to those aged from 17-26 years. There were a mere handful of people in their twenties, on the later side of 24, not only did I feel like the OAP of the group, I was gravely concerned. Where were my age group? Was it a lack of political interest? Or had they fled the country? In the rural area of Cavan/Monaghan, most people who were permanently based in these regions have left, have had to leave due to the lack of job opportunities, and so there voice was unheard, silenced if you may. The 22-26 age bracket was underrepresented, but due to circumstance not lack of interest. I urge the Being Young and Irish initiative to attempt to gauge the views of those who’ve emigrated, it’s vital if we ever want them to return with a greater skill set than what they left with.

Also with second level students well represented on the day something new became evident. There is an education gap. The majority of second level students openly admitted to not fully understanding the salient issues of concern for our nation. When the topic of economic stability and a recovery were broached, it was a topic they felt they could not contribute or add value to, as they had not been educated to appreciate what truly is going on in our economy. These are young people in an education system which does not provide an education on such topics. Despite this concern, they were at the workshop – they acknowledged an education gap and wanted to rectify it, and wanted to learn so they too could be part of the recovery.

In an age where due to past mistakes we are often disheartened and feel undervalued as a generation when forced to emigrate or take jobs which do not allow us to realise our full potential, it is encouraging to know that though we often feel like a ‘forgotten’ generation, we now have a medium through which we can have our voice heard, and more importantly, there are a myriad of young people who want to get involved and repair this country to realise their future of a better Ireland. Let’s hope President Higgins continues with this initiative and we as a young generation get to realise our dreams – after all ‘In Dreams being Responsibility’.

‘The Forgotten Irish Graduate’ blogs at theforgottenirishgraduate.blogspot.ie.

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