Comhairle na nÓg 31 youth councils across the country
giving young people a voice on local services & policies

Meeting with Chairman of Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs

Meeting with Michael Healy-Rae, Chairman of Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs 
28.05.2019, Leinster House








Four members of the Comhairle na nÓg National Executive: Rhiannon from Mayo Comhairle, Kenneth from Offaly, Josh from Louth and Michael from Roscommon were recently invited to an informal meeting with Michael Healy-Rae, Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs.  The Chairman is interested in meeting different stakeholder groups from across sectors informally to hear their views of the EU and their priorities for Europe and particularly wanted to hear the views of young people.

The four young people started with a short presentation about the work of Comhairle, their own work to date on Student Voice and Individuality and had some really important points to make about the EU and how young people feel about it. Part of the discussion related to the impact of Brexit on young people, the positives of the EU for young people today & their thoughts on Climate Change.

Here are some of the comments by the young people, starting with their views on Brexit and young people

Education –  affecting the ability to study in the UK or Northern Ireland
Transport – not being able to travel freely between North and South. Considerations: will visas be required, will airport checks be longer, will haulage companies be badly affected?
Health Services – young people are worried about A&E services. Will emergency services be allowed to travel freely between north and south, for example, if you have a crash on the border can you go to nearest hospital?
Employment – concern in relation to haulage companies.
Social and Leisure – concerns in relation to their everyday social and leisure: will they be allowed to shop in the north and vice-versa? Will GAA games be affected? What will happen with holidays and airports?
Peace & Reconciliation – it is amazing how far we have come in the peace process and how Protestant and Catholics can get along in groups like their youth council network. They think there will be more smuggling across the border as a result of Brexit and that it could be used as an excuse for armed conflict and violence.

Other issues that concern young people include the global warming emergency and Article 11 and 13 (or the controversial copyright law) of the EU. Article 11 and 13 were passed earlier this year. Young people are afraid this will change the internet as they know it. Most young people know it as the meme ban. With the laws, all copyrighted materials on the internet may be removed. Though a Parody Law is there to say the difference between a pirated movie and a meme, we fear this may be ineffective or not clear enough.

The Global Warming Emergency is a key concern for young people as evident from the recent student protests. The consequences of global warming are evident with the last two summers being some of the hottest on record and the drought of last year.

Young people also are concerned about the growing call to establish an EU army. Ireland prides itself on its neutral stance.

Young Irish people also want Ireland’s voice to be heard in Europe and for our country to be able to speak up on behalf of its citizens in the European parliament.

Although young people have many concerns about the EU they also see the many benefits it brings such as the ability for citizens to travel freely within the EU. This makes it easier for young people to travel abroad, to see a new culture and more of the world. As the saying goes travel is the best education you will ever receive. When students finish their second level education they are not confined to choosing a course from an Irish college. Students can receive third level education in any EU country without paying more than a citizen in that country. This gives students in Ireland more opportunities when choosing a course that suits them. Students studying at third level in Ireland can also study in Europe under the Erasmus programme.

Young Irish people also know of the opportunity to live and work in other EU countries.

They know that even though the Irish government pays money to the EU we also receive grants which help fund agriculture, infrastructure and much more.

Many Irish young people see the benefits of free trade within the EU, the key component the EEC was built on, which allows us to import and export products to other EU countries creating a more competitive market for consumers. Even though young people may not talk about this topic they are still aware of the benefits it brings.