‘We made big sacrifices and it’s not recognised’: Ireland’s youth on a year of lockdown

Under-35s the most eager for life to reopen sooner in Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll

Cian McGuire from Naas, Co Kildare: ‘Before the pandemic I had the impression that Ireland didn’t really care about young people at all; the pandemic reinforced that for me.’

Cian McGuire from Naas, Co Kildare: ‘Before the pandemic I had the impression that Ireland didn’t really care about young people at all; the pandemic reinforced that for me.’

 

For 18-year-old Megan Carey from Sallins, Co Kildare, there is one thing that she wants to be able to do once the Covid-19 pandemic passes – the chance finally to be able to use her ID on a night out.

“I am happy things are finally back reopening so I can have a bit of a social life again. It was all kind of taken away from me. I never got to experience the 18th birthday parties and being able to go out to the pub or nightclubs,” she says.

However, her older sister, Elizabeth, is slightly more cautious, saying: “I’m glad that things are finally reopening because the lockdowns have gone on for so long. But it is a bit nerve-racking also.”

“I feel like everything is kind of opening up again really quickly and I wouldn’t like to see us go back into another lockdown,” she told The Irish Times as both sisters went out for a walk.

Elizabeth Carey, Sallins, Co Kildare, finds the reopening a ‘bit nerve-racking’
Elizabeth Carey, Sallins, Co Kildare, finds the reopening a ‘bit nerve-racking’

Following more than a year of Covid restrictions, the majority of people believe the reopening of social and economic life should proceed more quickly, according to the results of a recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

However, people under the age of 35 who were polled are the most eager for a faster return to normal, and 67 per cent of everyone surveyed said they were “looking forward to socialising this summer”.

Plans

Megan Carey gave up on plans for a post-Leaving Certificate holiday in Greece and is instead heading to Galway for a few nights: “With restrictions on international travel, that [Greece trip] got cancelled, which we expected,” she said.

Her sister is being cautious, too: “I’m not vaccinated and I don’t think I will be by the end of summer, so I doubt I’ll go abroad. If I was fully vaccinated and I didn’t have to quarantine coming home, I would consider it.”

However, she has found the inability to travel difficult: “I found it really hard because I felt being in my 20s was the prime of my life and everyone says your 20s are for travelling.”

“My plan in college was to go abroad all summer every summer and that has been taken away from me for two years now. I know that’s not the most important thing but I want to enjoy my time in my 20s,” she says.

“Obviously older people were more vulnerable and more at risk and that is very difficult for them and I do feel for them.”

Cian McGuire (22) from Naas, Co Kildare, says his level of concern about Covid-19 is much lower now than it was: “Luckily, it’s not really in my life as I don’t know anyone who has gotten it over the last few months.”

“I don’t really see it anymore. That might be why my level of concern has gone down so low,” says McGuire, “I have gone to a pub or a restaurant almost every other day since reopening.”

Mr McGuire is still on the pandemic unemployment payment as his job has yet to return: “All the money I get is going back into the local economy,” he declares.

International travel

The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll found the vast majority of people, just like the Carey sisters, are not intending to travel abroad this summer, though the reasons for not going vary.

Twenty-two-year-old Aideen Farragher from Newbridge, Co Kildare, is fully vaccinated because she is a speech and language therapist student and spent some of 2021 on a placement.

“I’ll wait ’til the go-ahead is there. I wouldn’t be holding my breath for a holiday abroad,” she says, speaking while having a coffee in Naas. “With the potential for rules changing regarding quarantining, it would be a bit of a hassle.”

On how the pandemic has affected young people, Ms Farragher says: “Obviously young people feel like they’ve missed out on a year but older people couldn’t see their grandchildren. It’s all relative.”

Mr McGuire, who will also be fully vaccinated in a few weeks, plans to emigrate to Madrid rather than holiday this summer: “Before the pandemic I had the impression that Ireland didn’t really care about young people at all.

“I would say the pandemic reinforced that for me.

“Young people’s lives were impacted the most for something that was the least risk to us. We made big sacrifices and I feel like that isn’t recognised.”