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The Participation Unit is a dedicated unit under the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY). It takes the lead in ensuring that young people have a voice on matters that affect their lives and that their views are given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.
Youth Hub (Hub na nÓg) supports Government Departments, State agencies and non-government organisations to give children and young people a voice in decision-making on issues that affect their lives, with a particular focus on those that are seldom heard.
The Participation Unit and Youth Hub (Hub na nÓg) works with DCEDIY to plan and conduct consultations with children and young people. Further details on the Participation Unit and Youth Hub (Hub na nÓg) are provided in Chapter 5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making.
Youth Council (Comhairle na nÓg) and the National Youth Parliament (Dáil na nÓg)
Youth Council (Comhairle na nÓg) are child and youth councils in the 31 local authorities. It is the recognised national structure for participation by children and young people in decision-making in all 31 local authorities. These councils give children and young people a voice on the development of local policies and services. Delegates from the councils are elected, by the councils, to the National Youth Parliament (Dáil na nÓg).
The National Youth Parliament is the annual national parliament for 12- to 18-year-olds. It is held every two years. Approximately 200 representatives from the 31 youth councils are elected as delegates. The DCEDIY funds and oversees National Youth Parliament, which is hosted by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
The topics discussed at National Youth Parliament are chosen by young people in the youth councils. The theme for 2019 was Climate Change. Recommendations from National Youth Parliament are followed-up by the Youth Council’s National Executive, supported by the DCEDIY Participation Unit and carried through a full process of engagement with relevant influencers, stakeholders and policy makers to ensure their views are reflected appropriately and meaningfully in government decision-making. The Comhairle na nÓg National Executive 2020-21 are working on the theme of Climate Change with a specific focus on climate conscious transport solutions. Further details on the Youth Council and the National Youth Parliament are availablein Chapter 5.3 Youth representation bodies.
Global issues exchanges with policy-makers at the international level
UN Youth Delegate programme
The UN Youth Delegate programme in Ireland is organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Aid (the Government’s overseas aid programme) and the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI). Its goal is to support young people to be agents of change through active engagement in the United Nations. Youth Delegates are selected by NYCI via a public competition to represent the young people of Ireland at the United Nations General Assembly.
The role of Ireland’s UN Youth Delegates includes direct consultation with youth groups throughout the country and abroad during their year long term of events. The delegates work with young people at home and abroad to bring the issues that matter most to them to national and international attention. UN Youth Delegates have worked closely with staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and have accompanied the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Ministers of State to events to help ensure that the voice of young people is heard.
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Youth Delegates
Since October 2014, one Irish young person has been invited to become a youth delegate, by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. The youth delegates come from different backgrounds, including activists of youth, youth workers, students, young politicians. One young person from each of the 47 member states is selected.
These delegates take an active part in the two annual sessions in Strasbourg, France. The sessions are formal gatherings where the Congress members examine reports, hold thematic debates, and adopt recommendations. The youth delegates sit alongside the Congress members for both sessions. The delegates are invited to give their views during the debates and to have an exchange with the members of the Congress on the issues on the agenda. The delegates also develop their own grass-roots project in their home countries, under the Congress’ aegis.
The Youth Assembly on Climate took place, on 15 November 2019, in the Dáil (the Irish parliament), in collaboration with RTE (the national broadcaster). 10- to 17-year-olds were invited to apply. 157 young people from all over Ireland were selected to partake, to match the number of TDs (members of the Dáil). These young people attended the Dáil to discuss what Ireland needs to do to tackle the climate crisis. 10 recommendations were put forward to the government. These are discussed in Chapter 9.7 Current debates and reforms.