Northern Ireland youth ‘disillusioned’ by continuing sectarianism

Elders told serious challenges remain

 Former prime minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland: met more than a dozen young people from Northern Ireland in Dublin yesterday

Former prime minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland: met more than a dozen young people from Northern Ireland in Dublin yesterday

Sat, May 11, 2013, 01:00


Young people who make up the post-peace process generation in Northern Ireland are disillusioned with a political system still dominated by sectarian interests, members of the Elders were told in Dublin yesterday.

Three members of the Elders, a group of global leaders that tackle issues related to conflict, human rights and development, including former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, met more than a dozen young people from Northern Ireland in Dublin yesterday to hear their concerns.

Ms Brundtland, who chaired the meeting, said that while Northern Ireland’s progress since the 1998 Belfast Agreement was “an inspiration to the world” yesterday’s discussions showed serious challenges remained. “Talking to young people who have grown up with the peace process showed us that a lot more needs to be done to build a truly inclusive society,” she said. “They shared their disillusionment with a political system still dominated by sectarian interests. High levels of unemployment and continuing segregation leave young people in marginalised communities particularly vulnerable to violence and this is yet to be properly addressed.”

Northern Ireland is not a focus of the Elders’ work though Mr Ahtisaari has a personal connection, having been involved in overseeing inspections of IRA weapons decommissioning. “We were impressed by the remarkable commitment of the young people we met to building a peaceful, inclusive and culturally vibrant future for Northern Ireland,” said Ms Bruntland. “As Elders, we firmly believe that their voices must be heard and their interests must be represented by political leaders.”