5.3 Youth representation bodies
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Ireland has a National Youth Parliament (Dáil na nÓg) for young people aged 12-17 years.
The National Youth Parliament was established under the National Children’s Strategy (2000) to provide a national forum for young people to discuss and vote on issues that affect their lives. The National Youth Parliament is established at a national level and is not referenced in the Irish Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann. The National Youth Parliament is funded and overseen by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and is hosted by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
The National Youth Parliament is a biennial event, where 200 representatives from the 31 local child and youth councils (Comhairle na nÓg) are elected as delegates. The age range of its members are 12 to 17 years old. The topics discussed at this event are chosen by young people themselves within the 31 local youth councils.
Recommendations from the National Youth Parliament are followed-up by the local child and youth councils' executive (Comhairle na nÓg National Executive) for the following two years.
The local child and youth councils Toolkit recommends that 20% of the delegates present at the local child and youth councils' AGM from ‘seldom-heard’ backgrounds.
To achieve this aim, the councils send a general invitation to schools, youth groups and to a host of other organisaitons that work with or represent young people, including organisations representing seldom-heard young people.
Role and Responsibilities
The role of the National Youth Parliament is to provide a national forum for young people to discuss and vote on issues that affect their lives. The main areas discussed include school, home/community, online, public services, sport/leisure.
The role of the National Executive is to take action on behalf of young people on the most voted recommendations that were voted at the previous National Youth Parliament. The National Executive has a term of office of two years and this is facilitated and supported by the DCEDIY to ensure that its members get the opportunity to engage with appropriate Ministers, policy-makers, Oireachtas Committees and other decision-makers.
The local child and youth councils' National Executive has direct and structured engagement with the Children and Young People’s Policy Consortium and advises the DCEDIY on progress relating to the implementation of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures the national policy framework for children and young people
Local child and youth councils (Comhairle na nÓg)
Local child and youth councils (Comhairle na nÓg) were established under the National Children’s Strategy (2000) and are the recognized key structure for participation by children and young people in local decision making in the 31 Local Authorities in Ireland. They are not part of the Irish Constitutional structure. They are supported by the DCEDIY’s Comhairle na nÓg Development Fund. This fund has been managed by Pobal since January 2011 in cooperation with the DCEDIY.
Local child and youth councils operate in 31 Local Authorities around the country. The age range of its members is 12-17 years. Every local child and youth council holds an Annual General Meeting (AGM), to which children and young people are invited from schools, local youth clubs and other youth related projects. Attendance usually ranges between 80-150 young people at each local AGM.
At AGMs, participants work on identifying local topics of importance to them. A committee is elected at the AGM and is responsible for working on the topics identified during the coming year, as well as being the consultative forum that works with decision-makers.
The Comhairle na nÓg Toolkit recommends there should be approximately 20% of the delegates at the AGM from ‘seldom-heard’ backgrounds.
To achieve this aim, child and youth councils send a general invitation to schools, youth groups and a host of other organisations that work with and/or represent young people, including organisations representing seldom-heard young people.
Roles and Responsibilities
The main role of child and youth councils is to give young people a voice on the development of local policies and services. Local child and youth councils get young people’s voices heard in two ways:
- by working on topics of importance to young people, and
- by acting as a consultative forum for adult decision-makers in the locality.
The main areas of their activity includes:
- mental health
- services and facilities for young people
- how young people are treated by the adult world
- homophobic bullying.
The role of the local child and youth councils' National Executive is to act on behalf of young people on the top recommendation voted at the previous National Youth Parliament.
The National Executive has a term of office of two years and is facilitated and supported by the DCEDIY to ensure that its members get the opportunity to engage with appropriate Ministers, policy makers, Oireachtas Committees and other decision-makers.
The National Executive has direct and structured engagement with the Children and Young People’s Policy Consortium and advises the DCEDIY on progress in relation to the implementation of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, the national policy framework for children and young people, and its strategies.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is the national representative body for the 374,000 students in third level education on the Island of Ireland.
The USI is a membership organisation with affiliated members in Students’ Unions around Ireland, both North and South. USI is an unincorporated entity and is neither registered as a company nor as a charity. It is a confederal organisation, created by and funded by Students’ Unions jointly through its National Council, which serves as the National Executive body of the organisation.
The supreme authority of the Union is the Congress, which is representative of each affiliated students’ union, apportioned according to the size of the student body in each union.
Each union also sends one voting member to the National Council – the executive body of the organisation. The Union’s structures include one incorporated entity: USIMS Ltd, a limited company which submits returns in accordance with the laws for regulation of limited companies.
USI’s Executive Team is made up of a:
- Vice President for Academic Affairs
- Vice President for Welfare
- Vice President for Campaigns
- Vice President for Equality & Citizenship
- Vice President for the Border, Midlands and Western Region
- Vice President for the Southern Region
- Vice President for the Dublin Region
- Vice President for the Irish Language (An Leas Uachtarán don Ghaeilge))
- Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs
- NUS-USI President.
USI is a democratic organisation. The supreme authority of the Union is the Congress, which is representative of each affiliated students’ union, apportioned according to the size of the student body in each union. Each union also sends one voting member to the National Council – the executive body of the organisation. The union has a yearly mandate. Meeting of USI are held on a regular basis.
USI staff members include a:
- General Manager
- Public Relations and Communications Manager
- National Student Engagement Programme Co-ordinator
- SAVES2 Energy and Sustainability Manager
- Student Mental Health Project Manager
- Until 2020 there were also three trustees and three Finance Committee External Members. These will be replaced a Governance Committee.
Role and responsibilities
The main role of USI is to represent the 374,000 students in third level education on the Island of Ireland. The aim of the USI is to work for the rights of students and a fair and equal third level education system in Ireland. USI provide information through their website. They also raise awareness on various student issues through awareness campaigns on issues related to welfare, equality, education and citizenship.
Welfare issues include information on consent; mental health; sexual health; accommodation; personal safety and workers’ rights; equality issues; education and citizenship. Equality issues include a ‘Queer Dictionary’.
Education issues include information on student representation, postgraduate grants, mental health funding, counselling services, social welfare, exams, student grants and the National Framework of Qualifications.
Citizenship issues include information on EU affairs, voter registration, EU elections, Seanad (upper house of the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature) voting registration and USI JI (US) Visa guide.
The USI believe that in order to realise its potential and achieve its goals it must work with other organisations who share the same values.
They are members of a number of organisations such as:
- The National Youth Council of Ireland
- The National Women’s Council of Ireland
- Irish National Development Education Association.
They also have partnerships with a number of organisations including:
They also have a policy aspect to their work. For example, USI write position papers on policy issues such as funding of higher education, Brexit etc. and pre-budget submissions on various student issues to the government.
The main areas of activity are
- Student welfare
USI, is a confederal organisation comprised of its member students’ unions on the island of Ireland. It is not a company nor is it a charity. Prior to 2020 a Finance Committee, elected by the National Council of the organisation, oversaw the financial management of the organisation. In 2020 the USI’s constitution was altered, removing the Financial Committee and Trustees, replacing these with a Governance Committee. Annual accounts for the preceding year are presented to the Annual Congress. Quarterly financial updates are given to the National Council each thirteen weeks.
The Irish Second Level Student Union (ISSU) is the top-level school student representation body in Ireland.
The ISSU's activities are based on Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children and young people have the “right to express views freely in all matters affecting them.” The Education Act (1998) is the legislation that makes provision for student councils to be set up at post-primary level in Ireland. Irish Second-Level Students' Union Limited is a not-for-profit, voluntary student rights’ organisation.
The main organs running the school student union are:
- The National Student Executive
- The National Council of Schools
- The Regional Council of Schools
- The Secretariat
- The Board of Directors.
Membership of the ISSU is through student councils. When a school’s student council join the ISSU, the whole school is considered a member of the ISSU.
The highest decision-making body in the ISSU is the annual Congress, where member student councils attend and vote on the policy of the ISSU.
Elections for ISSU bodies take place at the Congress and Regional Councils, creating the National Student Executive, National Council of Schools and Monitoring Committee.
There are 370 Student Councils affiliated to the ISSU.
The National Student Executive includes a
- Honorary President
- International Officer
- Education Officer
- Communications Officer
- Welfare Officer
- Campaigns Officer
- Irish Language Officer
- Equality Officer
- Student Council Support Officer.
The National Council of Schools consists of eight students elected at the Regional Councils meetings, the ISSU President, Deputy President and the Student Council Support Officer. Each region elects a Regional Officer to represent them on the ISSU National Council of Schools. There are eight people elected to the Board of Directors in ISSU.
Role and responsibilities
The ISSU has a dual role:
- to promote the benefits of young people becoming part of the decision-making process that affects their school lives, and
- to provide individual students with support for voicing their views and opinions.
The main objectives of the ISSU are:
- to provide training and development of second-level school Student Councils, in conjunction with relevant bodies;
- to develop policies on issues affecting Irish second-level students and bring the needs and rights of Students to the attention of the relevant authorities;
- to provide a transparent, democratic and reliable organisation; to work in collaboration with other educational institutions and bodies both in Ireland, and Europe;
- to work closely with educational curriculum policy makers and Teachers’ Unions to continually develop a transparent, fair and modern education system; and
- to give Students a structured platform through which the voice of the Irish Second-level Students will be heard.
- The National Student Executive coordinates the execution of ISSU policy, campaigns and activities. The National Council of Schools coordinate national policy and campaigns, and is a forum to ensure that each of the Regional Councils are updated so that they can inform their students about developments in the ISSU or education generally.
The National Youth Parliament receives public funding through the DCEDIY and is also accountable to the same Department alongside the Irish government.
Local child and youth councils
Local child and youth councils receives public funding through the DCEDIY Comhairle na nÓg Development Fund. This fund provides money to local authorities to run effective local child and youth councils.
Local authorities also provide funding and resources for local child and youth councils, as well as other organisations at local level. Local child and youth councils are financially accountable to local authorities, the DCEDIY and the Irish Government.
School student union
The Irish Second Level Student Union (ISSU) is a not-for-profit, voluntary student rights’ organisation. ISSU is a company limited by guarantee.