President lauds 'inspirational' ideas


ENDING EXPLOITATION of young people at work, gaining accountability of political leaders and recognising the importance of language and cultural identity are among the most important goals if a better Ireland is to be achieved, according to a group of 100 young people who met in Dublin at the weekend.

The young people were taking part in the first regional “Being Young and Irish” consultation, hosted by President Michael D Higgins.

There will be three more such consultation workshops in Monaghan, Cork and Galway over the next three weekends, to each of which 100 young people have been invited to explore their vision for Ireland. They are being asked to debate what they see as the most important aspects of that vision.

As well as hosting the consultations, the President is calling on young people aged 17 to 26 who have an interest in shaping a better Ireland to make a submission to the President’s website. The submissions can be in text, audio or video format.

These submissions, as well as feedback from the consultations, will be collated by researchers at the Dublin Institute of Technology, and discussed at a presidential seminar in November. The deadline is September 29th, and submissions can be made by any young person living in the State, or any young Irish person living outside it. There have been submissions from Canada, Australia, Belgium, Britain and Ireland.

Addressing the young people at the weekend, Mr Higgins said the submissions already received had been “both practical and very inspirational. The tremendous commitment, reflected in the submissions, to creating an Ireland based on fairness, diversity and respect for human rights has been impressive and very moving. It fills one with, not just hope, but also such a strong sense of what can be achieved by taking charge of change.”

He said the initiative to consult with young people was one part of his presidency’s contribution towards a “transformed Ireland, an inclusive and real republic”.

“I think all of this will be very exciting,” he said.

The findings would be gathered into a report to be disseminated among relevant Government departments with a view to their consideration and implementation.

Mr Higgins told reporters after his address he was confident the process would have an impact.

“I can see the dangers of it not having any effect, but I can also see the possibilities and the need to make sure the arrow falls where it has the greatest effect.”

Key concerns: passionate views

Strong opinions: young get chance to air thoughts on pressing issues

For Cormac Breathnach (21), from Carlow, the “constant attack on the Irish language” was one of the most pressing issues.

He has just completed a psychology degree in UCD.

“Irish was very important to my family when I was growing up and that has instilled in me a respect for and a love of it. To me, our history, culture, identity and the way we interact with the world is bound up in our language. It is part of us, and if we lose it we lose our identity, our connection to all that.”

He fears that it might become an optional subject at Leaving Cert level, and agrees with a Conradh na Gaeilge suggestion that Irish be split into two subjects at second level – a compulsory spoken, written and grammar subject, and an optional Irish literature subject.

Lorna Deegan (22), Co Meath, who has just finished a music and geography degree at NUI Maynooth sees inequality as the gravest challenge. “I mean inequality due to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation – everything. I mean inequality in everything from there not being a ramp for a wheelchair-user to access a shop, to the huge cuts to the public health service.”

Now vice-president of the Maynooth students’ union, she was asked whether she would get involved in political activism to achieve change. “I prefer to get out and fight and work on the ground, making a difference there . . . That is why I wanted to work in the students’ union – working face-to-face with the students.”