Dozens of young people from around Cork gathered in City Hall in recent days to to debate, explore, and highlight issues that are important to them and their communities.
The Have Your Say Day for young people is a collaborative piece of work with the Northern Ireland Youth Forum and is being held in all four provinces nationwide during the month of May. Cork was chosen to host the Munster event and more than 75 young people took part.
Guest speakers included a community drug and alcohol worker, a community garda from Mayfield and a mental health awareness representative.
The topics that were discussed in depth and passionately at the event included mental health awareness around services and accessibility to services, drugs and alcohol, Gardaí and their relationships with young people.
Owen Neenan from Foróige’s LinkPoint UBU Project and his colleague Seán Mealy in Knocknaheeny Youth Diversion Project helped to support six young people from Knocknaheeny and Mayfield in organising the event. Their daily role involves working in youth activism and promoting a voice for young people.
Mr Neenan said the young people who gathered in Cork City Hall last Friday came from all over the city and its environs.
“A lot of work went into preparing for the event. Over 75 young people gathered to discuss issues and topics that affect them in their daily lives," he said.
"The participants came from Mayfield, Glanmire, Knocknaheeny, Mayfield, Ballyphehane, Togher, Greenmount and a few came from a Foróige club in Aghada.
The event provoked great debates as the guest speakers presented on the agreed topics. This was then followed by the young activists who expressed their concerns and experiences on these issues.
Mr Neenan said the young people who were involved in the event want the Government to act on the issues that are ‘important’ to them and their communities.
“They want services embedded in the community," he said. "They want to promote drug and alcohol awareness, and they want to highlight the importance of positive garda and community relations.”
The project worker said it is good to ‘empower’ young people.
“The aim of the event is to create a youth manifesto which is going to be a written document echoing all the voices of the young people in the room," Mr Neenan explained. "We will put that to the Government, and they are going to have to respond to the requests from the young people.
“It is good to empower young people. The main goal is to improve the lives of everyone in their communities. It is the ultimate event by young people for young people. It is completely youth led and youth empowerment is the central theme. It is all about hearing the youth voice.
"When the young people meet as a collective from all over Cork city, we would like to think their voices will be heard."