What does being young in Ireland in 2012 mean? Part of the answer is revealed in the report that informed the “Take Charge of Change” declaration that was issued by a cross-section of Ireland’s youth, when they met at Áras an Uachtaráin earlier this month. President Michael D Higgins received their work – the result of a six-month dialogue with more than 700 young people, aged 17 to 26, throughout Ireland.
The President, who initiated the research process last May, said the declaration would dispel any public doubts and concerns that “young people are disengaged, disaffected and cynical”. In particular, he commended their preoccupation with social justice, education and promotion of diversity issues. As four out of 10 young people are now unemployed, their concerns about the future – their future – need to be heard. As President Higgins said: “It must not be a lost conversation, a lost consultation.”
Advocating change is one thing, but implementing change presents a more daunting challenge. In that regard, the concern shown by the President in initiating this youth initiative, and the commitment made by Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald to ensure the Government pays full attention to their report, is important. Such support should make a difference. The proposal made for a campaign by young people to promote active citizenship is an obvious first step in raising the profile of youth, both to secure public attention and mobilise support for some of the many issues that they have identified.
Recently, John Logue, president of the Union of Students in Ireland posed the question: whether Ireland would be a better country for the next generation, or whether that generation would become the first in our history to have a worse quality of life than their parents. That is the challenge facing both the Government and what might well be called young Ireland: one that the latter – via their Take Charge of Change declaration – have shown they are well-equipped to meet.