Northern Ireland news

Young people 'left voiceless' due to Stormont impasse

One voice: Anna Cregan, Robin Deehan, Alexander Morrison and Corey Graham-Houston were among those who attended the North South Youth Forum in Belfast
Claire Simpson

YOUNG people have been "left voiceless" due to the impasse at Stormont, a youth organisation has said.

The Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) said young people continue to be disconnected from those who make decisions.

Following a meeting of the North South Youth Forum last month, young people from both sides of the border called for increased resources for youth mental health services, improved transport in rural areas and the need for better relationships between young people and the police.

Members of the forum, which is funded by the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs under the Reconciliation Fund, are drawing up a manifesto which they want to present to political representatives, north and south.

However, while the forum has already received an invitation from Fergus O'Dowd, chairman of the Good Friday Committee in the Dáil, to present the manifesto in the Oireachtas, it cannot do so at Stormont due to the lack of an assembly.

The DUP is refusing to form a government as part of its opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol - a post-Brexit trading agreement which has effectively created a customs border in the Irish Sea.

Louisa Ward, participation development worker from the NIYF, said young people have been left without a voice.

"During unprecedented and challenging times for young people in Northern Ireland and without the presence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, young people are effectively left voiceless again and continue to be disconnected from decision makers," she said.

"This is a long-standing issue for young people and has been highlighted time and time again in NIYF's continuous research and surveys conducted with young people."

Members of the North South Youth Forum called on the two administrations on the island to create more cross border initiatives, dealing with issues that affect young people.

Robin Deehan from Co Derry said: "It's time for the governments both north and south to take action and listen to our key asks and respond adequately and appropriately to them.

"It's time for young people's voices from across the island of Ireland to be heard and it's important for the governments to recognise that these issues facing young people are not dissimilar from Derry to Galway."

Northern Ireland news