By Deaglán de BréadúnThe Irish Times
THE LACK of engagement in Irish politics by young people reflects the conservative nature of the system, the MacGill Summer School was told yesterday.
Speaking on the theme, Is Ireland a country for young men and women?, communications specialist Andrea Pappin said: “Irish politics is about making the least amount of change you can get away with.”
She recalled how, in 1997, both Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair were elected as heads of government.
“In the UK, there was the devolution of powers to the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly and Stormont, the creation of a directly elected mayor of London, the removal of most hereditary peers from the House of Lords, the introduction of PR for European elections and a referendum on the voting system for Westminster elections.”
By contrast, in Ireland since 1997, she said that “while we had a number of referendums, not one of them had to do with planned constitutional reforms to improve or modernise our country”.
There was a need for a parliament that was more than “just an electoral college for the cabinet” and that would allow TDs to be more than constituency administrators or champions of their locality.
Economist Ronan Lyons said “Charlton’s children”, the generation born when Jack Charlton’s tenure as Irish soccer manager was at its height, “are perhaps the luckiest generation that Ireland has ever had”.
He said they were lucky “because they are the first generation to see Ireland for what it is and pick their future accordingly: a small open economy completely dependent on its ability to sell its talent on international markets, but with plenty of opportunity for those with the right skills”.
“Yes, there is lots of unemployment in Ireland. Yes, there is a lot of debt and, for the next few years, there is going to be tough budget after tough budget,” he said.
“But Ireland’s teenagers can sidestep all that, because they have a clean slate.
Ruairí McKiernan of national youth organisation SpunOut.ie said: “We need a participatory democracy where we are involved much more in decision-making than once every five years stroking a pen at the ballot box.
“We need to be involved and that requires effort and responsibility from all of us and that includes true youth participation at all levels.”