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Being Young And Irish - what are Ireland's young people saying about their country?

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Michael D Higgins and Ireland's Youth at the Being Young & Irish launch
Michael D Higgins and Ireland's Youth at the Being Young & Irish launch
This weekend is going to be an eventful one for me. Not only are my home country of Donegal playing in their first All-Ireland since before I received my first holy communion, but it's also the northern leg of President Higgins' series of Being Young & Irish seminars, with Monaghan following on from Dublin and Cork. So what have been young people's priorities so far?

On a daily basis the Being Young & Irish Facebook page post submissions made by young people all over the country and they range from impassioned ideas on how to improve mental health awareness and facility, equality and preserving cultural identity, but on both seminar days so far some large themes came to the fore.

One of the striking areas where ideas and interest was high was in education, where there was a near unanimous wish for wholesale reform of the educational system. Specifically, young people wish to see a change to the stultifying status quo, especially at secondary school level, with a more holistic approach that would integrate life skills, creativity, debates and innovation, as well as taking a fundamental look at how subjects are taught, what is covered on the curriculum and a focus on political education. It's clear based on the reactions of the young people that they see changing the fundamentals of education, by altering they very way we interact with the education system, it is from there that further new ideas and innovations can come in other facets of life.

The second, very encouraging element was the willingness of the young people not just to passively postulate on the issues of the day, but to take active ownership of them. In Dublin, the young people succinctly proposed a "Get Up Off Your Arse Day" and the Cork meeting also emphasised a push towards volunteering and putting plans into actions by strengthening the bonds in their community.

Related to that was the need for young people to challenge and refute stereotypes that dog them, especially in the media, and the best way to do is to make clear how willing they are to contribute, both locally and nationally. To that end there were calls for a national youth panel, to consult on affairs of state that substantially affected young people, and the more general call for accountability between the state's citizens and its' government was a very popular one.

Even though the Being Young and Irish consultation process is only half way through, there's still time to add something to the discussion. If you think have something valuable to contribute to the conversation about Ireland's future, share it with us at www.president.ie/makeasubmissionYou never know where it might lead.

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