A lost generation? Not us
This topic also featured in the Irish Times discussion. “I’d love to teach young people and practise here,” says Shine. “Whether I’ll get less money doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to me whether I’ll get a nice house or a large car.”
“People put themselves under insane pressure with five- or 10-year plans,” says Kinsella. “I really think, in this day and age, it’s quite unrealistic. You only line yourself up for disappointment and failure.”
Some college lecturers and youth workers also report increased interest in social entrepreneurship and a hunger for new ways of thinking. It’s as if some are turning their backs on politics and the old systems and looking for new ways to change the world they live in. It’s something President Michael D Higgins has sought to encourage as part of a series of forums on being young and Irish.
He says he has been struck by the absence of cynicism among young people taking part and urged them to take charge of change. “Young people are facing conditions of change which are going to impact on them, and are impacting on them. They are carrying the greater burden of unemployment, broken expectations,” he told this newspaper recently. “We need now, more than ever, a vibrant, imaginative and creative population to rebuild our land, to build a real Republic.”
That message has chimed with many. The forums on these issues that the President has helped to plan have been oversubscribed, taking organisers aback. If all this sounds a bit too Pollyannaish and hopelessly naive, then maybe it is.
“Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive,” William Wordsworth wrote, about two centuries ago. “But to be young was very heaven.” His words, often quoted as a celebration of youth, were written about the French Revolution and intended as an ironic comment on the naivety of youth.
Maybe this is a new generation that, when faced with the realities of work, raising a family and making ends meet, will continue as others did before. Or maybe they will seek to create a new society.
But for now they are confident, resilient, impatient for change and waiting for their voices to be heard.
‘Young people get a raw deal’ Generation Next on . . .
BEING YOUNG IN IRELAND
“It can be tough . . . You need to motivate yourself to apply for jobs and keep applying, even though most places won’t get back to you. That’s soul-destroying. So where do you go from there? . . . The days and weeks can melt away.” Seán Keane
“There’s no point comparing yourself to previous generations. Not a lot of good comes out of it. You have to look at your specific situation. It kind of has to get better. And we’re all willing to work.”Stacey Shine
“It’s challenging, but we’re all in the same pond. All you can do is just try your best . . . do things more productively. There’s no point getting down; then it’s not a recession, it’s a depression.”Eugene Woodland
“I’d hope to have enough money to be comfortable, to live on. I’d like to have a car and be able to fuel it, but I think maybe [we] won’t be buying houses in the future, we’ll be renting.” Aoife Price
“In five years I hope to be in full-time employment, have prospects and opportunities. Maybe at some stage in the future go back to education and go further in my field.” Seán Phelan
“Sport is looking up in the US and Australia . . . I hope to get a sports-management degree here . . . If I have to emigrate, I will.”Stu Clancy
“I’d love to have a job here, working with young people or in a teaching role, and to be able to do my art. It doesn’t matter whether I’ll get a nice house or a large car. I’ll stay here anyway.”Stacey Shine
“I’ve two years’ work experience . . . I just need someone to see the good in me and give me a chance again.”Laura Kinsella
ANGER AT OLDER GENERATIONS
“The [fat cats] don’t feel an ounce of remorse. They have good thick necks on them. They have their golden handshakes. I’d love to see some of them take some responsibility.” Seán Keane
“I can’t feel too much anger towards individuals. If someone has the opportunity to take advantage in the same way again, they probably will . . . We need to look at what we can do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.” Stacey Shine
“There’s a lot we can do ourselves. If you do a course and get a qualification, why not be productive and set something up?” Eugene Woodland
“I will get a job. I’m entirely confident. It’s just about hitting the right place at the right time. It’s just a matter of keeping going and keeping motivated.” Seán Keane
“When you’re unemployed, you realise you can’t pigeonhole yourself. You have to be flexible, to be open to new ideas.”Laura Kinsella
UNPAID WORK EXPERIENCE
“I had a bad experience of it. I ended up getting nothing out of it, aside from the experience, which was great, to be fair. But as a result I’m skewed against the notion of working for free. A lot of companies are taking advantage of it.”Seán Keane
PERCEPTIONS OF YOUNG PEOPLE
“I think young people get a raw deal . . . they’re often tarred with the same brush: everyone’s a vandal, a troublemaker or nothing but trouble. But there’s lots of work done by young people in communities, out helping other people.” Jamie Leahy
“The media highlights trouble more than the good things they do. You never see articles on the positive things involving young people, such as [the mental health campaigns] Think Big and Headstrong.” Stu Clancy