Through our contact with hundreds of young people across Northern Ireland and beyond, we welcome the steps to restore a Northern Ireland Executive and fully functioning Assembly. Young people in cross-community clusters of schools have been telling us that they want to see functioning political institutions and would like to engage with Committees and Ministers and see their ideas come to life in policy and legislation.
Two years is a very long time in the lives of teenagers, at a time when their ideas about democracy, citizenship and government are forming. While politicians from all parties have been terrific in meeting and engaging with our groups, young people want to see their ideas implemented and want to be involved in bringing about positive change in their communities, our society and the wider world.
Northern Ireland faces significant challenges which it will take time for any new Executive to address, and we urge politicians to involve young people meaningfully in developing responses to the challenges we face. Children and young people have been at the forefront of recent cuts to budgets and services and many face unacceptable hardship which is hindering their learning and development.
While there are many ways in which politicians can demonstrate to young people that they are listening, we would like to see young people here afforded the same rights as their peers in Scotland, Wales and a growing number of countries around the world. Any new Executive should seek to introduce legislation to ensure that 16 and 17 year olds can vote. Nothing is likely to focus the minds of politicians on the opinions of young people and the issues they face than working to secure their votes. More on this very soon…