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ireland 2029

Should volunteering be mandatory for Irish teens? Here's what young people think of the idea

Hear more about the pros and cons on episode three of Ireland 2029.

A LOT CAN happen in 10 years. Where is Ireland going, and what will life be like here in the year 2029? Welcome to Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, a brand new podcast from

Over the next 10 episodes, we’re partnering with Volkswagen to bring you 10 big ideas that could change Ireland for the better. Each week, we’ll talk to someone about an idea they truly believe could work, and find out whether it’s practical, or whether it’s a non-runner.

In the third episode of Ireland 2029, we ask: What if Ireland’s teenagers had to spend a mandatory year helping others?

Whether it’s a bag pack at the local supermarket or a sponsored walk to raise funds for charity, most secondary-school age teens are familiar with the concept of giving up their time for a good cause.

But what if those kinds of good deeds were compulsory? This week on Ireland 2029, our big idea focuses on the young people of Ireland.

Presenter Michelle Hennessy and producer Andrew Roberts ask whether a State-funded volunteering programme – one that requires every young person in Ireland to give up a few hours (or more) of their time each week to help others – could work in this country.

Former Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay thinks more volunteering could serve to give Ireland’s young people a stronger grounding in the importance of caring for others. As he suggests on episode three of Ireland 2029:

The kid who’s helping another group of kids to learn to swim, is not the kid who’s terrorising his neighbourhood. He’s not the kid who’s hanging around on street corners, he’s not the kid who’s setting fire and doing damage and terrorising old people and so on.

Finlay doesn’t think the volunteering should be mandatory, but is in favour of a State-funded programme overall. “Compulsory? No. State-run? No. State-funded? Yes. Imaginative, creative, incentivised.”

So that’s what an adult thinks – but what do Ireland’s teenagers make of the idea?

While recording episode three, we spoke to some young attendees at the National Youth Council of Ireland’s ‘Youth Work Changes Lives’ showcase at Dublin’s Mansion House. Here were some of their takes:

Making it compulsory could have a negative effect 

If it is forced upon them they’re not going to enjoy it. I wouldn’t like it to be forced on me personally, I would like it to be free-flow.

But some push-back always has to be expected

There will always be resistance, no matter what you’re trying to get people to do. I think people being generous to the community, giving back to the community, is a great idea.

It could help young people to be more mindful of others

I’ve always been involved with volunteering and youth work… I can see the differences between myself and my peers in school… you become a better person and you’re more confident, because you know how to deal with stressful situations and think of something on the spot.

And to find more focus on what they’d like to do after school

I’ve been volunteering with the Order of Malta for the past five years. [The volunteering work] has helped me to realise that I’d like to become a paramedic in the future.

Curious? Hear more on the third episode of Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, which is live right now:

Full list of providers here 

Ireland 2029 / SoundCloud

Ireland 2029 is a podcast from, in partnership with VolkswagenThis episode was put together by presenter Michelle Hennessy, producer and editor Andrew Roberts, series producer Órla Ryan and executive producer Christine Bohan. With thanks to Paula Lyne and our contributors. 

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