Tonight in an English hotel room, I write as a young, disillusioned Irish man. I sit here confused and sad about the future for many men and women my age in Ireland. I am trying to figure out whether our Government have given young people a kick up the arse to say get out to work or helped them to book that one way ticket on Skyscanner. What do you think?
In today’s budget the Government have decided to reduce social welfare by 30% for young people. So any new entrant receiving benefits between 18-24 years of age will get €100 per week from January 2014. For many, the price of a night out in Dublin.
What message does this give to the future of our country? Get up and go? Work harder to find that job? The NYCI say that 177,000 have left our shores since 2008 and our youth unemployment stands at 30.8% currently. Decisions like those made today are going to ensure we stay getting Facebook notifications inviting us to the latest ‘Going Away Party’ for the foreseeable future!
But aside from statistics, what message are our leaders sending young people? Are they inspiring hope? Giving young people something to cling onto in order to stay in Ireland? Hardly. I believe it will further marginalise young people from engaging with politics and governance, not exactly a relationship that needs any reason to drift further apart! Perhaps the Government saw people in their 20’s as an easy target? We all know young people are not the important demographic when it comes to garnering votes. Young people are also unlikely to mobilise in very large numbers to protest. (However I am encouraged to read of a protest beginning at 5pm on Wednesday in opposition to the cuts.)
What young people (and the not so young) need in Ireland today is a message of hope. A message that people believe. I’m not full of hope and belief after today’s Budget. Rather, I believe I’ll be saying goodbye to more of my friends who will head to foreign lands to build a sustainable future! Could you blame them? Youth services have been cut by approx. 30% since 2008 around Ireland, education is getting more expensive, jobs scarcer.
Is today’s announcement the final nail in the coffin for many? I hope not but I expect plenty will pack up and board that plane. And what a shame! We are losing young, savvy, ambitious, creative people. The heartbeat of many villages stripped away. Sports and social clubs countrywide losing the people they need to sustain their very future.
Do I have answers to keep these people? Not really right now. (Though I would love to engage in some way with other young people who want to come up with answers!) I commute weekly myself to the UK for work at the moment. I spent from February until April on Social Welfare and it wasn’t an enjoyable experience by any means. Full of nerves and tension completing application forms and job interviews to try and get a foot on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. Keeping a budget of outgoings to make sure spending was on a tight leash. Having Match of the Day as company rather than a pint of stout among friends.
Hopefully these few words will get you thinking about Ireland. About what sort of a country it is for young and old? Is our recovery going to be driven by our youth or will they contribute to the development of Perth and Toronto, Christchurch and Canberra instead? Will decisions like those made today mobilise more young Irish people to think, and then to act, about the role we can play in the future development of our country? To direct the path Ireland goes down? One of my heroines is Camila Vallejo, a Chilean girl who led protests for better access to education for students in her country, a girl who decided to take action for a better future for young people in her country.
Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí, as the old Irish proverb goes. Not very apt tonight.