Young people 'full of ideas' on reform


PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has praised young people for their engagement in the future of the country. He spoke as it emerged that political reform topped a list of proposals in the second in a series of workshops he is holding with young people around the country.

Mr Higgins said it was clear from the submissions received to date as part of his Being Young and Irish 2012 initiative that young people wanted to engage in transforming Ireland and were not afflicted by the cynicism of some.

Speaking in Cork on Saturday where he met 100 young people from all over Munster, the President said the most pressing issue for those in Cork who had made submissions on his proposal was political reform.

This was followed by recognition for Irish culture, arts, language and food, while equal rights and reform of the healthcare system and economic innovation were also identified as important to their vision for Ireland in the future.

“The idea for this initiative all flows from my inaugural speech in Dublin Castle, where I said I thought the seven years should be ones of transformation and I gave examples of that – certain assumptions were made about economics which have proved wrong,” said the President.

“It’s not just good enough to have what Dean Swift called ‘righteous rage’ or righteous anger and it’s important to be positive; and the interesting thing that has come out of the first raft of submissions is that young people are not cynical and they are not disengaged.

“They are actually full of ideas: and it’s not only about the economy but how they deal with the State and the State agencies – both centrally within the State and locally – and they point out the difficulty of not being listened to.”

One of the areas which young people had made very practical and detailed submissions on was education, Mr Higgins said.

They called for a more holistic approach that recognised and respected the different learning capacities of people.

“When they speak about inequality they are talking not only about recognising difference and respecting difference; they are also talking about equality of participation in education and skills,” said Mr Higgins.

“I think one of the things very evident in their submissions is a strong rejection of class privilege – there is very little individualism in it.

“And . . . they all mention respect for sexual-orientation difference.”

President Higgins told the young people gathered at Nemo Rangers Pavilion in Douglas, Cork, that their submissions – along with those from other young people, including those he is due to meet at similar workshops in Monaghan and Galway – would be assessed and acted upon.

He pointed out that all the submissions – which can be offered in writing or online by September 29th – would be examined by a specially appointed research team and their findings presented at a final major seminar in Áras an Uachtaráin.

“The big difference with this consultation is that it is being driven by young people and the end product is being treated differently,” he said.

“When the final seminar takes place, there will be senior decision makers there to listen and a report will be prepared.

“What will happen then is the different sections of the report which are appropriate for different agencies and departments will be directed explicitly at those for a response.

“It’s targeted like a quiver of arrows each being sent to the appropriate agency or department.”