‘I’d love to emigrate’: What Irish 18-year-olds are thinking

We know what consent means. We overuse our smartphones. We worry a lot

‘I’ve lived here long enough’

Grace Feeney, Sligo
Sligo is quite traditional. I wouldn't have experienced any gay or transgender people in school. It's unfortunate, because I'm sure there are people who feel like they can't be themselves, but it's not as open-minded as places like Dublin.

We wouldn’t really discuss abortion at school. It’s a religiously run school, so it’s not talked about much. I think it’s really stifling when schools have such a religious influence. Obviously, if people are religious it’s their own choice, but religion where it’s almost inflicted on people, I think, can have a really negative effect.

Personally, I’m not very religious. My family are, and I go to Mass with them sometimes, but I’ve kind of rebelled against the religious element.

I’m hoping to do business and law at UCD or Trinity. I’m not really sure how I feel about the prospects. I’m not that great on the economy, but hopefully everything will be okay.


I’d love to emigrate. I love Ireland, but I’m 18 now, and I feel like I’ve lived here long enough. I’d love to emigrate and see what happens.

‘Social media gets to me sometimes’

Shauna O'Connor, Co Offaly
About three months ago one of our teachers came in with one of those voting leaflets, and said that, if you're 18 before some date in February, to fill it out and you can vote.

We discuss the Eighth Amendment, but not too often. I’m pro-choice. My friend would have a difference of opinion to me. Sometimes we’d discuss it, but it wouldn’t get too heated or anything like that. We have different opinions, but I respect her and she respects me.

Sexual consent is someone saying yes, not acting like they’re saying yes, but actually saying yes. If it’s confirmed before the act itself, too, that’s consent. But if someone says yes an hour before, and then changes their mind, that’s not consent. Personally, I’ve never been in a bad situation, but I would know a few people who have.

Because people are talking about mental health more openly, people are discovering, “Maybe I have this,” or, “I feel like that, too.” It’s healthy to have a name to put on something, so that you’re not feeling alone.

I have an iPhone, and, yeah, I definitely overuse it. I try to put it down if I’m studying, but the time goes so fast when you’re on it, it’ll turn into three hours so easily.

I think the pressure of social media gets to people, too. The likes, and the comments. I’ll admit it, it gets to me sometimes, too.

‘Young people are getting more conservative’

Hugh O'Reilly Fitzgerald, Passage West, Co Cork
I'd love to head into international diplomacy, but that's a little bit hard to get into. I love languages, too.

I’d be worried if I wasn’t academically minded, because I think university is . . . not a trap, but I feel it’s something everybody is being sucked into, regardless of whether it suits their career hopes or aspirations.

I’d probably describe myself as an agnostic. The school allows for that pretty well, to be honest.

A pupil in my school came out as transgender last year. My school is an all-boys rugby kind of school, so you might not think it was the ideal place to do that. The response from the teachers was pretty good, but the response from the students was piss-poor. It was the talk of the school where it really shouldn’t have been, and people were speaking about it as if it were some sort of a joke.

Young people are moving to a more conservative point of view. People in school that I interact with would be more socially conservative than the millennials proper.The pendulum seems to swing: there are liberal generations and less liberal generations, and I feel it may have passed by my peers.

‘We wouldn’t be watching Prime Time’

Maebh Pierse, Tralee, Co Kerry
We're not really that educated about the abortion referendum. There's not much about it in school. We're getting a speaker in to talk about it now, actually, but it's only the pro-life side, so we don't get to see both sides to it.

I suppose it's for us to find out more about both sides. I know it's on TV and stuff, but we wouldn't really be watching Prime Time.

People can get bullied on Facebook, but I think it’s exaggerated and pulled out of proportion sometimes. All my friends are just on Instagram, and we snap each other, but there’s no drama. We probably spend too much time on it, and it’s distracting, but not for our health or anything.

‘People talk about mental health a lot’

Anna Jeacle, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin
Equal rights for everyone – that's a big thing with my generation that everyone fights for. The pay gap, and Repeal the 8th, and stuff like that.

Personally, I don’t think I ever could have an abortion. I believe it should be every woman’s choice, and I know it’s the same with many people my age.

Environmental issues are really important, but I probably don’t think about it as much as I should. I have been thinking about it more recently. It is something I try to improve on and be aware of.

I overuse my smartphone sometimes, and people my age do, but I’m quite good at not going on it when I’m with people.

I use social media: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook. I don’t think they’re bad. I was just thinking of this the other day. Older generations always seem to talk about pressure from social media, but that’s quite an immature way to think of it.

People talk about mental health a lot more since I’ve gotten older. Some people are too sensitive about stuff like that, but it is very good that people are starting to be more open about it.

I’m scared, nervous about the future. I’m not ready to go out into the world yet. I don’t think I would like to emigrate. I’d love to travel, but I don’t think I could imagine settling elsewhere.

‘We should be careful with everyday things’

Covi Castellanos, Alicante, Spain; studying at Trinity College Dublin
Right now the real big political issue in Spain is the independence thing, and that's really important for the young people in particular, because it's happening right now.

To me religion is believing in something. It’s having faith in something, not only when things go wrong but also when they go right, feeling like there’s something else, and having this belief in the fact that everything happens for a reason.

We need to work harder to keep our world the way we want it for our children and our grandchildren, so that they can have as much as we had. I think we should all be a little more careful with everyday things.

‘#MeToo has been incredible’

Niamh Scully, Clontarf, Dublin
As a woman the repeal movement is really important to me, especially with everything coming up with the Eighth Amendment referendum. I did a lot of campaigning with women's groups and BeLonG To in the last couple of years.

Extending the Gender Recognition Act to nonbinary people is very important, because we need young people to feel safe to identify as who they are.

#MeToo has been such an incredible movement. We all know that rape culture is such a big thing, and it's really been coming to light in the last few years. It has been incredible to see all of these powerful and incredibly brave women coming forward and talking about their experiences and explaining how it affected them.

I think mental-health issues have been around forever, and we are now coming to a generation of people who are not afraid to talk about how they’re feeling. You can see the rise of mental-health services in schools and in colleges, and it’s not as bad any more to say that you have anxiety or that you get panic attacks. There is still some stigma, but we’re getting rid of it, which is amazing.

‘I have a smartphone, and I overuse it’

Sarah Coffey, Blackrock, Co Dublin
I think social media has a lot to do with mental-health issues. The fact that we're so exposed to it, all the different types of social media, and social media is having a much bigger impact on mental health than it would have years ago. It has a negative effect on body image, and it's really bad for bullying.

I have a smartphone, and I do overuse it. For social media, for texting, for calling and just for being online.

I think young people are healthier than previous generations. People are more aware of the dangers than they would have been years ago.

I’d be quite optimistic about my job prospects in the future in Ireland. I want to go into social science. I really like the idea of working with people: social work or HR or teaching.

‘We know climate change is not a hoax’

Matthew O'Rourke, Sandymount, Dublin
People in my generation know that climate change is not a fake, not a hoax. At the end of the day it will be my generation's job to fix up the mess that's being made now, with whatever is left to fix up.

Sexual consent is asking someone, “Is it okay if I have sex with you?” and they say, “Yes, I am okay with it.” That is consent. I think it has to be clear. It can’t be, “They sent me signals,” or, “I had a feeling.” It has to be a clear yes.

If I don’t have my phone I feel a bit lost, and sometimes I just don’t want to have it, because I know it will distract me. You’re just scrolling through Facebook one minute, and next thing you know it’s half an hour later, or someone sends me a message asking me something, and then it’s 20 minutes later. You just lose track of time.

I think emigration is going to be a bigger prospect for me than it will be for most other people. Hopefully, if I get the course I want, I can head off and get the jobs that I want.

‘The environment never comes into my head’

Harry Quinn, Dromiskin, Co Louth
I'd never think about the environment at all. It never comes into my head.

I would consider consent quite an issue these days. Among young people, in particular, you see it causing issues. Basically, if a girl is sleeping or can’t say no, don’t go near her. If she’s yes, grand, but if she says no don’t touch her. If she doesn’t say yes then you stay far away.

We are not healthier than previous generations. It’s gotten way worse. You walk around town and you’d see 13-year-olds smoking. There are drugs everywhere. I have friends who work in nightclubs, and they have to clean cocaine off the toilet and everything. It’s serious.

I have an iPhone, and I definitely overuse it. Everyone is using Snapchat. You don’t ask for anyone’s phone number any more: you ask for their Snapchat. I don’t see a problem with it. It’s just like ringing or texting on their phones.

Emigration is definitely an option. The thought of going away to Australia, I was just thinking of it the other day. I’ve an uncle over there. I’d be in favour of emigration.

‘The housing crisis has put Dublin off the list’

Adam Page, Woodford, Co Galway
The housing crisis would be a bit of an issue for me. Going to college next year, it's a bit of a worry, rent and houses and that. It has put Dublin off the list a bit.

We took aptitude tests in our career-guidance class, and law was one of the ones that came up for me. I thought about it: it pays fairly well, and you do make a difference, I suppose, to people who are being prosecuted. You could be the last line of defence before someone’s going to jail.

I’ve law in UL down on my CAO. If you want a job you definitely need a degree, even a master’s nowadays. Apprenticeships are good, too, if they pay you well. I think UL is my first choice, and I’m interested in law. I haven’t looked too far into any job prospects yet.

I come from an agricultural background, and my brother’s gone off to New Zealand last November. He’s going to spend a few years over there, contracting and driving tractors and all that sort of craic. I suppose a lot of people around here have done that, too, so maybe, if it all doesn’t all go to plan, I might do that.

‘If I’m worried I pray. It relaxes me’

Clotilde Woods, Sandyford, Dublin
The abortion issue is really important. Especially at my age, we're really influenced by what our friends think, and that's a good thing, but it can also be a problem, because we don't really make our opinions. We often just go by what others are saying.

I’m Catholic, but I wouldn’t go to Mass every Sunday. I go at Christmas and Easter and stuff like that. When I was younger I just went along with it all, but now that I’m older I like believing in God. I pray at night sometimes, or if I’m worried I pray. It relaxes me.

I was in a really Catholic school until third year, but I didn’t notice much difference between that and the school I’m in now, which is Protestant, and less religious than the school I was in.

I think mental-health issues have been a problem for a long time, but it’s really common at my age, especially. With people doing the Leaving Cert, people are struggling a lot.

We are a healthier generation than the previous ones, but there’s still a lot of unhealthy behaviour going on.

I’ve already lived in Spain for a year, during fourth year. I would be really inclined to move out of Ireland when I’m older and live somewhere else. I’m half-French, so I would maybe go to France for a bit. I think I would come back to Ireland to start a family or to raise my kids. It’s a nice place to be brought up.