Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

‘Young people are Ireland’s most powerful resource’

Our so called “lost generation” are educated, fired up and ready to create change. They need all the support we can give them so their potential can be realised, writes Marie Duffy

Mon, Sep 24, 2012, 00:30


Our so called “lost generation” are educated, fired up and ready to create change. They need all the support we can give them so their potential can be realised, writes Marie Duffy

Marie Duffy is editor of

Recently I was asked to represent SpunOut in the audience of RTE’s Frontline for their first show of the season which focused on youth. Although there are many issues facing young people at the moment, the show focused mainly on education and the cost of third-level fees.

Education is a major theme on our website, but our employment and health sections are our most visited. Often the media portrays young people as lazy, unmotivated and perfectly happy to get by on handouts from the state. However, here at SpunOut we know that this is far from the truth.

This is backed up by the fact that our most popular articles on the site are around creating a CV and cover letter, securing a job interview and around minding your mental health. This does not represent lazy, unmotivated young people but instead a group who are trying to find ways to improve their chances of securing a job in a very difficult climate.

Ireland has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe, and it seems that the government is doing very little to combat this. Lack of experience in the workplace was one reason given for why so many young people are without work. To counter this the Jobbridge internship scheme was launched last year to great fanfare as a solution. But instead it has been criticised for being a scheme that provides placements that offer little or no learning opportunities.

So how can we provide an atmosphere that supports our young people instead of punishing them for their age and lack of experience?

The first thing we must do is to stop referring to our young people as a “lost generation”. The media in particular has a major part to play in this. The young people who use SpunOut tell us that they hate being referred to as a “lost generation”, and are frustrated at the negative and disempowering language which is used to describe them.

If this label continues to be used, there is the chance that it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy and we will indeed have an entire generation of young people who feel lost.

What young people need is a little guidance and support to help them through a period of huge uncertainty and instability. Instead they are being accused of being lazy scroungers who would rather receive benefit handouts and depend on others to support them.

This attitude coupled with uncertainty and instability that many young people face is leading to emigration, not because they want to leave, but because they feel they have no choice. But despite the huge emigration there are those who are determined to stay and help Ireland build a better future.

They don’t see themselves as victims, but future leaders of their communities, future teachers, doctors, tradespeople, and entrepreneurs. But the government is failing these young people by not providing enough opportunities for them. There is a wealth of great ideas out there, and young people need support in bringing these ideas to a reality.

At SpunOut we recently launched our Superheroes Fund which provides small amounts of money and mentoring to young people who have innovative ideas to create positive change in their community. We were overwhelmed by the high standard of ideas, and were left in no doubt of the potential of the young people in Ireland. There is a wealth of talent in our country, and the government need to step up and provide support to nurture it.

Every day through SpunOut I come into contact with inspirational, intelligent and ambitious young people who are out there creating change. However, because of their age, their potential and ability is often discounted.

We need to stop seeing young people as a burden on our society, and instead see them as our most powerful untapped resource. Our so called “lost generation” are educated, fired up and ready to create change, so let’s do all we can to support and mentor them in achieving this.

Marie Duffy is 27, and editor of the Irish youth website