Youth groups call for targeted phone app to help tackle bullying

Comhairle na nÓg seek more influence in work of Dáil and Seanad

Felicity Heavin, Westmeath Comhairle na nÓg, and Mark O'Brien, Meath Comhairle na nÓg, with Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and Kevin Brennan, Kerry Comhairle na nÓg, at a Comhairle na nÓg gathering today at the National Library. They discussed ways for young people to influence decision-making in the Dáil, the Seanad and local authorities. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Felicity Heavin, Westmeath Comhairle na nÓg, and Mark O'Brien, Meath Comhairle na nÓg, with Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and Kevin Brennan, Kerry Comhairle na nÓg, at a Comhairle na nÓg gathering today at the National Library. They discussed ways for young people to influence decision-making in the Dáil, the Seanad and local authorities. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 16:25

Phone apps to tackle mental health issues among teens, road safety campaigns and youth cafes are among the projects members of Comhairle na nÓg have come up with to tackle problems facing young people.

Comhairle na nÓg are child and youth councils in the State’s 34 local authority areas. They give young people a voice in the development of local services and policies, and meet regularly with decision-making bodies. Priority issues include mental health services for young people, cyberbullying and homophobic bullying, and mental health.

At a meeting yesterday inDublin, a number of young people from the Comhairle na nÓg national executive discussed ways for young people to influence decision-making in the Dáil, the Seanad and local authorities.

Speaking at the event, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald TD called for her political collegaues “to ensure that strong links are made between Comhairle na nÓg and the work of the Houses of Oireachtas”. She said the councils’ work provided an opportunity for policiticans to develop a better understanding of issues facing young people. The councils were, she said, “fast becoming a recognised voice of young people in local communities”.

Felicity Heavin (17) from Westmeath told the meeting that at a recent Comhairle na nÓg agm, cyberbullying and mental health issues were identified as the main issues facing young people. She called for Oireachtas members to safeguard funding for the Comhairle na nÓg and to set up an annual session where the national executive could meet TDs and Senators .

Mark O’Brien of Meath Comhairle na nÓg asked for politicians to become aware of the work of their local comhairles, and to network with other TDs and Senators working on similar topics. Conn McCarrick (17) from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown said his group was working on events for young people including a summer concert, and said more needed to be done to promote the work of Comhairle na nÓg.

On the issue of bullying, Tracey Musitongo (18), from south Dublin, said, “We want to develop a phone app and a dvd to tackle bullying. Everyone has a smartphone these days so it’s easier to get our message across.”

Davina Clancy (18) from Galway city agreed, and said a phone app was needed that would direct people “to the best services if they are being bullied”. She said a dvd should be developed to send to schools.

Kevin Brennan (17) from Kerry said his group wanted to create a phone app that would be a “survival guide” for local teens. “It will have information on sexual and mental health and any information young people would need. Kerry is a big county and public transport is lacking. A phone app is a great way to spread the message.”