*Clare Comhairle na nÓg members prepare for their Onesie Run. 

Promoting positive mental health, youth employment and discrimination are to continue as central actions focused on by a group self-described as “a voice for the young people of Clare”.

Members of Clare Comhairle na nÓg addressed the Rural Development Strategic Policy Committee’s (SPC) first sitting of 2020 as it outlined the work it plans to undertake for the remainder of the year and what it completed last year.

Sinead Gogan told the meeting that Comhairle na nÓg is “a voice for the young people. We represent the youth of County Clare and, express our opinions and views on certain topics of interest to the young people of today”. The organisation is funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs through Clare County Council and is facilitated by Clare Youth Service (CYS). Their working group is made up of roughly twenty people “depending on the time of year”.

Comhairle members attended a McAfee Cyber Safety Training Day in Cork last year and subsequently delivered the same programme to students at NUIG who are completing a Masters in Education. By running a six week course for senior citizens on technology in conjunction with CYS and holding a teen friendship club for those with autism, they are sending out an important message, Cian Hughes felt. “We are trying to combat all types of discrimination by what we do in Comhairle”.

Discrimination will continue as a topic in 2020. Comhairle members praised the benefit of attending an LGBT workshop to better understand the difficulties faced by members of this community. “It gave us a greater understanding of discrimination in general and some of the specific issues affecting people who are LGBT”. Hughes added, “Discrimination will continue as an action in to 2020 as we feel we only scratched the surface last year”.

“Central to all we do is positive youth mental health,” Katie Hartigan explained. They have embraced the five a day model (accept yourself, connect with yourself and others, get creative and relax, be active and healthy, give something back). A onesie run was an initiative they organised in 2019 to promote positive mental health. On Saturday, they held a random acts of kindness morning and also held a mindful walk in Dromore Woods as part of this. The inclusion of mental health was welcomed by Cllr Shane Talty (FF), “I’m delighted to see mental health as the first topic”.

Youth employment will be factored as Comhairle’s third action in 2020. This will look at working hours, pay rates, insurance and taxation. “The first steps have been to ask the CYS Information Service to give us the relevant statistics and legislation,” the group outlined.

Agricultural representative on the SPC, Denis Tuohy questioned if the group was mainly focused on Ennis and noted “great synergies” between it and Macra na Féirme. Brian McManus of CYS confirmed their Comhairle had representatives from North Clare, Shannon, Sixmilebridge, Ennis, East Clare but that their presence wasn’t as strong in West Clare. “The big problem is that not a huge amount of resources go into this. We try to widen it out by having two AGMS in different parts of county. Transport is the big thing”.

Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) asked the group for their thoughts on climate change. “Everyone is covering that, we want to focus on the other things, there are loads of problems, if all the focus is on that the others won’t be covered,” Hartigan replied.

Hayes then added, “Does the social media bubble have too much of an influence on your lives”. Sinead believed it came down to the amount of use while Cian said, “Social media can have a really negative impact on people,” he was of the view speakers going to schools and youth clubs was a more effective way of capturing teenagers’ attention, “The younger teens don’t pay attention to infographics”.

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