Citizens' Dialogue: Young people - the future of Ireland and Europe
It is fantastic to look out at so many of you interested in the future of our communities, our country and our continent.
The power of the Citizens' Dialogue cannot be underestimated as it gives people a real chance to participate in decision-making and to be heard on the issues that matter to them.
It allows us to bridge the gap which can exist between the European Institutions and the citizens which they are supposed to serve.
There is no doubt that these are challenging times with Brexit now being to the forefront of many of our minds, but we have come through challenging times before and we stand ready here today to listen to what you have to say and support each other in finding ways forward.
The impact of the decisions which are being taken now will last for a generation – if not longer.
EU Youth Dialogue / Youth Goals
Last September, the Commissioner and I participated in an EU Youth Conference organised by the Austrian Presidency of the EU in Vienna.
I had the privilege of meeting with young people from all over Europe.
Indeed, one of the young Irish delegates at the event, Daniel Airey, is a student on this campus and I am delighted to see him here today also.
At the event, I was introduced to 11 Youth Goals which young people from all over Europe had worked together to create.
They touch on a wide variety of areas including but not limited to inclusive societies, mental health, rural communities, equality of all genders, employment, education, participation and sustainability.
What the themes very clearly communicate to me is that "Youth Goals" are really "Human Goals".
EU Youth Strategy
I am pleased to say that the 11 Goals have been included as an annex in the new EU Youth Strategy which entered into force on the 1st of January.
The Strategy covers the period 2019 - 2027.
It sets out key principles to ensure young people form part of future decision-making within the EU.
Ireland’s Youth Strategy
Ireland has long been a world leader in the area of inclusion of the voice of Children and Young People. We launched Europe’s (and possibly the world’s) first National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation.
I am pleased to say that today I am also publishing the Third Annual Report of this strategy.
It shows progress across Government Departments and Agencies in embedding the voice of the child and young people in decision-making.
90% of agreed actions are complete or are in progress.
Ireland’s young people are speaking up – and we are listening.
Government Departments, State Agencies and non-governmental organisations are giving children and young people a voice in decision-making on issues that affect their lives.
Consultations have been carried out with children and young people on important issues such as Standards at the Oberstown Children's Detention Centre, on how the voice of the child will be heard in Adoption proceedings as well as informing a change process for the Garda Youth Diversion Programme.
But there was also more – and another world first!
We are global leaders in having an LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy, it was developed with young people directly informing every single action.
4,000 young people from every part of the country informed the work. We simply could not have done it without them.
Ireland has led the way for over seventeen years in embedding the voice of the child in permanent structures at local and national government level.
Comhairle na nÓg, local youth councils, are funded by my department and are the recognised national structure ensuring the voice of children and young people is included in the development of local policies and services with the 31 Local Authorities.
Comhairle na nÓg's National Executive, elected from the local councils and serving a two year term, addresses the issues of most importance to members.
Additionally, Dáil na nÓg is the national youth parliament for 12-18 year olds. It is a biennial event, to which 200 representatives are elected as delegates.
This year to commemorate 100 years of Dáil Éireann, Dáil na nóg will sit in the Dáil Chamber.
To those in politics and the media – who say young people are not interested in politics I say nonsense!
You bring passion, energy and imagination to every debate. You deeply care about our future. You have the most to lose when we get stuff wrong – and the most to win when we get it right.
I come from a generation which saw peace restored to our island. I saw our country become a fairer, more just and more equal place to live.
With courage, with vision and with imagination change is always possible.
If Ireland, If Europe is to have a future we need your generation to share that passion, that vision and that belief.
On Brexit we continue to engage with young people and those who campaign on your behalf.
This is done through my Department and it’s engagement with the Children’s Rights Alliance, the National Youth Council of Ireland, the ISPCC, Barnardos and many others.
We also gathered young people in Croke Park early in 2017 to hear their voices – that engagement has continued and continues today.
Through this work a range of concerns have been identified.
We have listened to the very real concerns of those who cross the border every-day in order to reach school, to meet their friends and to engage in sports, the arts and culture.
They are central to the position the Government has taken to ensure we do not see a return to a border on our island.
There were those too who feared they could no longer access third level education in either jurisdiction.
Just last week Government set out our legislative plans in case of a no-deal Brexit.
We will ensure that Irish students will continue to be able to access third level education in in the Northern Ireland and Britain, and that UK students can come here. This includes eligibility for SUSI grants for study in the UK.
There are understandable fears too amongst young people about jobs prospects and the wider economy.
We are determined to do everything we can to reduce the economic damage that Brexit might inflict, and at the same time encourage the creation of new jobs in Ireland.
But the fears about future jobs are much more than just fears about Brexit.
Technology is radically transforming our lives and will continue to do so. Automation, Artificial Intelligence and other forms of technology are expected to radically change many jobs and entire industries.
It's not just about challenges, there are opportunities too - certain job roles will disappear and brand new job roles will appear requiring new and different skillsets.
I bet there are people in this room who, in a few years' time, will be working in jobs that haven't even been invented yet. That's why a new plan "Future Jobs Ireland 2019" will be launched in the coming weeks.
In every sense you are the Good Friday Generation – during your lifetimes Ireland has been utterly transformed. There can be no going back.
That is the firm view we have taken – and it is supported by our EU partners.
I am very interested in hearing your views on the topic at hand today and look forward to a lively and engaging discussion with you all.