Irish young people worried Brexit will limit their opportunities

Freedom to cross Border to attend school, one concern in children’s report on Brexit

Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Young people’s concerns about the potential impact of Brexit on education, healthcare and minorities are highlighted in a report published on Monday.

Facilitated by the Ombudsman for Children and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, 120 young people from across the island discussed the implications of Brexit for them, at a one-day conference last November.

They also heard presentations from Tánaiste Simon Coveney, British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chloe Smyth MP, and a number of senior civil servants from both sides of the Border.

In their report, It’s Our Brexit Too: Children’s Rights, Children’s Voices, the young people said they were “very concerned” Brexit could limit opportunities for work, travel and study.

“We will be the first generation to live with the full impact of the Brexit decision yet we did not get the opportunity to vote on this,” was one of the participant’s comments.

They say children and young people’s freedom of movement across the Border must be protected to ensure they attend school unhindered. School buses should continue to be provided across the Border.

“No child should have to move school because of Brexit . . . Ease of travel on public transport across the Border must be maintained and data roaming charges should not be reintroduced between the two parts of the island.”

Access services

Children, young people and their families should be able to continue accessing services and facilities on either side of Border, for example in relation to health, education, sports and cultural activities, the report continued.

The participants called on the British government to commit to continuing membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) to ensure retention of the European Health Insurance card.

“People should continue to be able to access health services closest to home, irrespective of whether this is on the other side of the Border.”

They want Northern Irish young people to still be able to travel to EU countries to study, work and live freely.

Many expressed concern about growing intolerance post-Brexit and the potential for harm to minority groups.

“Governments should run campaigns and fund public awareness programmes on diversity and non-discrimination. The media should promote diversity and provide information on issues relating to discrimination.

“A specific strategy should be developed to deal with discrimination in Northern Ireland and legislation brought forward to protect women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and to allow immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation.”

There also were suggestions for more progressive legislation in relation to recognising the rights of intersex people.

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said: “The young people have a keen awareness of the issues that could impact on their lives [post-Brexit], from ensuring that ambulances are not delayed when needing to cross the Border, to the disruption to family life where separated parents are living either side of the Border.”

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