Young people of Ireland declare daring strategy to improve state of the nation
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 by young people at a presidency seminar on Saturday.
President Michael D Higgins and 100 people aged 17 to 26 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 more than 700 young people.
The process, initiated by Mr Higgins in May, also resulted in the publication of a report titled Being Young in Ireland 2012. The report formed the basis of Saturday’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 in Irish society. 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 Mr Higgins, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and representatives of various State agencies.
It states: “Our vision for Ireland is [of] 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 outlines 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”. 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 expressed his wish that the proposals got 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 wide-ranging declaration called on legislators to extend equal marriage and adoption rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It also urged the Government to increase its engagement with the diaspora by extending voting rights to emigrants.
The young people called for reform of the Leaving Certificate, saying the points system and emphasis on rote learning failed to prepare students for “active citizenship”.
Ms Fitzgerald said the submissions were 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 on them for the young people’s strategy, currently being drafted, and would pass on relevant proposals to the appropriate authorities.
Yesterday youth organisation spunout.iecalled on the Government to take action on the proposals or “risk alienating young people further from the democratic process”.
Declaration main proposals
Adopt a dual approach to teaching Irish at Leaving Certificate level: the first (compulsory) subject focused on speaking, the second (optional) subject focused on literature, driven by foundation of Gaelscoileanna.
Legislate for the X case.
Develop social opportunities for the Irish language.
Make marriage equality and adoption rights a reality.
Legislate for absentee voting for citizens outside of their constituencies and abroad.
Begin a campaign by young people to promote active citizenship.
Provide CAO points recognition for volunteering and community involvement.
Sustain and increase funding to the youth sector.
Reform Leaving Certificate (hands-on class participation) and opportunities for lifelong learning.
Empower local government so our national representatives do not engage in parochial politics.
Provide dedicated classes in primary and post primary schools to educating young people on diversity, tolerance and acceptance.
Provide more funding for special education needs and broaden IT curriculum at second level.
Pursue a secular Irish State.
Reform curriculum at second level to include greater emphasis on political education.
Create a graduate employment scheme based on relevant skills (not Job Bridge).