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President praises youth declaration

President praises youth declaration

David Berry joined the President and other young people at Aras an Uachtarain for the first of a series of seminars.

Legislation for the X case, a referendum on abortion and a new approach to teaching Irish are among a list of proposals contained in a declaration unveiled yesterday at a presidency seminar for young people.

President Michael D Higgins and 100 young people convened in Áras an Uachtaráin to consider the drafting of the ‘Take Charge of Change’ declaration, the culmination of a six-month nationwide engagement with 700 or so 17 to 26-year-olds.

The process, initiated by President Higgins in May, also resulted in the publication of a report titled Being Young in Ireland 2012. The report formed the basis of yesterday’s declaration and reveals concerns about employment, the future of the economy, political reform, citizen participation and education for a full life.

In particular it highlights a desire among young people to see greater equality and a wider acceptance of diversity. It recommends diversity training in schools and calls for the drafting of a constitution which “represents all members of our society regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation”.

The declaration was delivered before President Higgins, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and representatives from various State agencies at Áras an Uachtaráin.

It states: “Our vision for Ireland is a secular inclusive, multilingual, confident state with excellent and universally accessible education, health and social support systems; an Ireland of which we can be proud on the global stage; a place where people, arts, culture, heritage, sport and the Irish language are nurtured and developed.

It goes on to outline a vision of community co-operation, active citizenship and a “place where human rights are valued; where there is an acceptance and celebration of all citizens and where all people have equality of access, equality of opportunity in society and in the State.”

Afterwards the President said “any president of any country in the world would be enormously proud of the presentation.” In particular he praised the focus on social justice, education, and the promotion of diversity.

“If anyone is in any doubt now about the myth that’s going around that young people are disengaged, disaffected and cynical, well there is your answer,” he added.

He stressed that it was his wish as President that the proposals get a real, rapid and positive response at every level of politics and within institutions of State. “It must not be a lost conversation, a lost consultation,” he said.

The declaration called on legislators to allow for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender marriage and adoption rights.

The report outlined a belief that young people at home and abroad have a role to play in promoting Ireland and creating a positive image of the country. The declaration urged the government to increase its engagement with the diaspora by extending voting rights to Irish people living abroad.

The young people called for reform of the Leaving Certificate, saying the points system and emphasis on rote learning fails to prepare students for “active citizenship”.

Ms Fitzgerald said the submissions were wonderful, positive and inspiring. “Having your voice heard and bringing about change are not easily achieved,” she added.

She praised the participants for making a positive start in attempting to bring about change and promised to “work with the Government and the President to make sure full attention is given to your findings.”

She said she would study the views with a particular interest in drawing upon them for the young people’s strategy, which is currently being drafted. She said she would also pass on any other relevant proposals to the appropriate authorities.

A summary of the Being Young and Irish Report realesed yesterday afternoon identifies the following themes as being of particular concern to the participants:

Employment, enterprise, social security, concern with the economy : The participants expressed concern about graduate job opportunities and the long-term impact of Ireland’s banking debt. They called for “the economy to be stimulated, with an emphasis on job creation and the need to integrate welfare and social protection more closely with inclusivity, enterprise culture and social solidarity”.

Political reform : A perceived disconnect between young people and politicians needs to be addressed. Respondents felt greater engagement and communication is a responsibility of both young people and politicians.

Education : The emphasis on rote learning in the Leaving Certificate was criticised by many who felt secondary education fails to prepare students for “active citizenship”. The introduction of university fees was unanimously rejected, while there was “an overwhelming sense that access to third level should be free of cost”.

Equality : One of the most prominent submissions. There was a heavy emphasis on the need for respect for individual rights and freedom of expression.

Involve young people : There is a prevailing sense that young people are not being listened to and that, consequently, “many opportunities are missed by those who ignore the youth”. Participants identified a need for a “structured forum where the youth voice can be promoted, encouraged and fostered”.

Being positive : “Young people expressed a strong need for optimism in envisaging an Ireland of the future and a sense of disillusionment with the negativity they experience around them.”

Health : Overall, respondents believe the healthcare system is “wrong”. Submissions on mental health, suicide, and mental health services featured, as did issues of alcohol, smoking and drug use. One participant noted: “Too many people are dying because they aren’t aware of the help that’s there and too often they can’t get the help they need when they look.”

Community and civil society : Young people believe Ireland lost some of its sense of community during the boom years. They believe community spirit can empower individuals and contribute to Ireland’s recover.

Identity as Irish : The economic situation, unemployment and emigration have raised the question of what constitutes Irish identity. Young people said students, graduates and the diaspora had a role to play in promoting Ireland. The need to incorporate the Irish Language into everyday life was also underlined.

Foilsithe ar 17 Samhain 2012 / Foilsithe ar - 19 Samhain 2012

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