Hundreds of children and young people will attend a special ceremonial event at Áras an Uachtaráin today (June 15) to remember the 40 children who were killed in the Easter Rising and to share their vision for Ireland.
As part of Ireland 2016, the Irish State’s official commemorations of the 1916 anniversary, and in partnership with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, a series of consultations took place with children and young people, between the ages of 8 and 18, in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The aim was to find out what things they liked about Ireland and Northern Ireland and what things they would like to change.
The event in Phoenix Park has been carefully planned, in keeping with the wishes of the young workshop participants, and forms part of the Re-Imagine strand of the centenary program. The results of the consultations are contained in a special report Children Seen and Heard 1916 – 2016, which will be presented to Minister Heather Humphreys and Minister Katherine Zappone as part of the event.
Highlights of the report from the children and young people include:
- The Irish language, history, culture, dancing, sports and the warmth of the Irish people are important
- They like the inclusivity and sense of community that they experience living in Ireland
- The fact that Ireland is a free and equal country with a green environment is important
- Drugs, alcohol abuse, racism, bullying and the stereotypical image of Ireland abroad were among the aspects of Irish society they disliked the most
- The teenagers who participated in the discussions spoke out against discrimination, homophobia, inequality and bullying
- They spoke about the poor supports for mental health and wanted everything possible to be done to help reduce the number of suicides
- Homelessness and an end to poverty were amongst the things they would like to change
- The teenagers were unhappy with aspects of the education system, especially the Leaving Certificate Points System
Hosted by President Michael D. Higgins, the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin have been transformed for the occasion so that children will be able to enjoy playing popular games from 1916. The formal ceremony will include a lantern procession, one for each of the 40 children who was killed in the Rising, a presentation by some of the children on their vision for the future, the burying of a time capsule and a special tree-planting ceremony. Broadcaster and author of Children of the Rising, Joe Duffy is the MC for the event.
Speaking in advance of today’s event, Minister Humphreys, said "It's important that children and young people have a voice in how we plan for the future as they are the decision-makers of tomorrow. I know that I and my colleague, Minister Zappone, will be reflecting on the findings of the report and discussing further with our Cabinet colleagues.”
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD., who was presented with a copy of the Report said “Children and young people clearly have strong views on the future of our nation and they must be heard. Their love of our culture, heritage and traditions and rejection of racism, bullying and discrimination is a source of huge hope for Ireland’s future.
“The strong votes for action on homelessness, poverty as well as the need for services for physical and mental health show that the values we all hold dear do cross generations, while I am sure their unhappiness with the points system and the pressure of the Leaving Cert will strike a chord with many grownups.”