Belfast Telegraph

The Young: Message to politicians is loud and clear - time to listen to our voices

Our young editors air their views on BBC radio show

By Joanne Sweeney

Politicians were told to up their game and deliver on the issues that really matter today to Northern Ireland's youth.

That was the blunt message given by three of our student editors when they were interviewed live on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

Yesterday's Belfast Telegraph poll indicated startling negative attitudes about Northern Ireland and its future from our youth aged between 16-24.

The findings from market research company Lucid Talk showed that two thirds of young people saw their future outside Northern Ireland, 65% think that we do not have proper peace and that nearly 70% of politicians do not think our politicians are capable of agreeing a joint shared vision for the future.

The three – Callum Sweetlove (17), from Belfast Boys Model School, Christopher Seeley (17), from St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh and Rachael Adamson (18), from Strathearn School, Belfast – spoke on behalf of a generation who either were not born when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, or who were only babies.

Presenter Stephen Nolan asked Callum if he was surprised that so many of his peers were eager to leave Northern Ireland.

He said: "Young people will want to stay when we have a new crop of politicans who haven't lived through a troubled past.

"I do believe it will be a while before young people are willing to stay."

He added: "I think that we don't see that there's a lot of opportunities here.

"Life does have more to offer outside Northern Ireland and young people are beginning to realise that more and more.

"I think a lot of it is to do with politics and the past and the peace."

Rachael Adamson described as young people being "really, really fed up" with the province's current political system but she also still urged them to become more involved in trying to bring about change.

When pressed about why young people do not change the political system that they are unhappy with, Rachael said: "Why would you want to stay somewhere where your voice isn't heard and your vote isn't going to count and politicians are not voting on things that young people really want them to look at."

Rachael also said that she felt that politicians really did not care what young people really wanted and spoke of her "disenchantment" with prospects here.

"While the rest of the world is moving on about things, such as same sex marriages, we are sitting here still talking about who's nationalist and who's unionist and that's not what we really want. We want modern issues to be addressed."

A despondent Stephen Nolan told the young editors and his audience: "I believe in this country, I genuinely do."

Christopher Seeley shared his disillusionment with Stormont politics, as always, coming down to Green/Orange issues.

He said: "If you look at other parliaments across the world, they are talking about poverty, global warming and things like that while our politicians are sitting talking about what flag is flown in Belfast."

However, Mr Nolan argued that this was because that the people who voted for them wanted them to talk about things like that.

"I think that's why a lot of young people want to leave Northern Ireland, because people keep voting the same for generations.

"We just feel that change isn't going to happen anytime soon."

Callum agreed that young people care about identity: "People here vote tribally. Anyone who is studying politics, realises that the matters talked about in the House of Commons are the real political issues rather than Green and Orange."

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