WHEN ASKED WHETHER they saw a future for themselves in this country, six teenagers from Tallaght all replied with a clear “No”.
“I’m disappointed, very disappointed,” 16-year-old Tafidh Ali told TheJournal.ie when we met the group at a community centre in Fortunestown.
“Yeah, like thinking you might have to leave your family and your home and go somewhere else – just for a job,” Chloe Kinsella, 13, chimed in.
13-year-old Conan Gavin worries that the severe unemployment the country has seen in the last three years will again be an issue by the time he is looking for a full-time job.
I’m only 13, so I won’t be 18 for a while, but even by the time I’m 18 or if I go to college, by the time I get out of college there might not be any jobs at all. And I could have a degree in this really smart subject and no one wants me.
What would they change?
Though they recognise the importance of addressing big issues in the country like housing and unemployment, the group is concerned that child-specific issues are often ignored. They want more for the young people in their communities.
“Maybe if there was more community centres or youth clubs around because there’s a lot of teenage drinking and all happening on weekends, teenage crime, hopping over walls,” Tafidh said.
“That’s what we’re doing for our project in Amplifying Voices,” Lisa explained. “We’ve been visiting youth facilities and community centre and seeing what they have and what they don’t have. There’s an area up in Citywest where there’s a lot of new houses and there’s a lot of new schools, but there’s no youth facilities for anybody.”
What would they promise if they were the ones running in the election? Answers ranged from free healthcare and more housing, to human rights and equal access to education.
More than anything, they said they would promise to be honest with people.
The teens, who are members of a Barnardos-supported youth group called Amplifying Voices, had lobbied council and government officials in recent years to get a playground built in their neighbourhood.
The day we met with them, they were looking at applications from other community centres and youth groups for funding. They would be helping them to secure funds for better facilities in their areas.
Aged from 13 to 16, these teenagers are already strong community activists, interested in and very aware of the difficulties faced by people living in their areas and in wider society. This group of young, motivated people, however, can not vote in the general election.
Chloe agrees that, at 13, she is too young to vote anyway, but she would still like her voice to be heard. She spoke passionately about the homeless problem in Dublin.
They should be focusing on what’s best for people in this world, like people don’t have anywhere to live or anything, so they should focus on building stuff for them. Like one place I know is in Fettercairn where there are apartments for the homeless and they’re allowed stay there five nights a week and I think that’s very good because there’s people out there and it could be snowing and they’re out in the streets with no socks, no shoes, no nothing.
“They have a load of ghost towns. They built a load of houses which people can’t pay for, now they’re homeless. So there’s houses around different areas, like new areas in Lucan and there’s nobody living there,” Hafidh added.
At 16, he feels he is mature enough to be able to vote.
“There’s not really much difference between a 16-year-old and 18-year-old, we all think the same. One day you’re 17 and the next day you’re 18, it doesn’t make any difference.”