President praises youth declaration
Legislation for the X case, a referendum on abortion and a new approach to teaching Irish are among a list of proposals contained in a declaration unveiled yesterday at a presidency seminar for young people.
President Michael D Higgins and 100 young people convened in Áras an Uachtaráin to consider the drafting of the ‘Take Charge of Change’ declaration, the culmination of a six-month nationwide engagement with 700 or so 17 to 26-year-olds.
The process, initiated by President Higgins in May, also resulted in the publication of a report titled Being Young in Ireland 2012. The report formed the basis of yesterday's declaration and reveals concerns about employment, the future of the economy, political reform, citizen participation and education for a full life.
In particular it highlights a desire among young people to see greater equality and a wider acceptance of diversity. It recommends diversity training in schools and calls for the drafting of a constitution which “represents all members of our society regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation”.
The declaration was delivered before President Higgins, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and representatives from various State agencies at Áras an Uachtaráin.
It states: “Our vision for Ireland is a secular inclusive, multilingual, confident state with excellent and universally accessible education, health and social support systems; an Ireland of which we can be proud on the global stage; a place where people, arts, culture, heritage, sport and the Irish language are nurtured and developed.
It goes on to outline a vision of community co-operation, active citizenship and a “place where human rights are valued; where there is an acceptance and celebration of all citizens and where all people have equality of access, equality of opportunity in society and in the State.”
Afterwards the President said “any president of any country in the world would be enormously proud of the presentation.” In particular he praised the focus on social justice, education, and the promotion of diversity.
“If anyone is in any doubt now about the myth that’s going around that young people are disengaged, disaffected and cynical, well there is your answer,” he added.
He stressed that it was his wish as President that the proposals get a real, rapid and positive response at every level of politics and within institutions of State. “It must not be a lost conversation, a lost consultation,” he said.
The declaration called on legislators to allow for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender marriage and adoption rights.
The report outlined a belief that young people at home and abroad have a role to play in promoting Ireland and creating a positive image of the country. The declaration urged the government to increase its engagement with the diaspora by extending voting rights to Irish people living abroad.
The young people called for reform of the Leaving Certificate, saying the points system and emphasis on rote learning fails to prepare students for “active citizenship”.
Ms Fitzgerald said the submissions were wonderful, positive and inspiring. “Having your voice heard and bringing about change are not easily achieved,” she added.
She praised the participants for making a positive start in attempting to bring about change and promised to “work with the Government and the President to make sure full attention is given to your findings.”
She said she would study the views with a particular interest in drawing upon them for the young people’s strategy, which is currently being drafted. She said she would also pass on any other relevant proposals to the appropriate authorities.