Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

A shared future for our young

Tina Merron, chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund
Tina Merron, chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund

The threat to Stormont institutions during discussions of parades and flags has served to amplify the divisive nature of politics here.

Many young people have no memory of any administration prior to the Good Friday Agreement, or the establishment of the Assembly. We owe it to them to look forward.

As the Belfast Telegraph reported earlier this year, a poll of young people aged 16-24 found that "these savvy young voters and parents of tomorrow are less interested in divisive issues like flags and parades... than in bread-and-butter issues, such as job-creation, health and education reform".

In the LucidTalk survey, 75% of those polled chose lack of jobs as the issue they would most like to see occupying the Executive.

We have seen an encouraging glimpse of progress recently, with extra money borrowed from the Treasury allocated to stimulating economic growth and to social cohesion through integrated schools, shared education projects and cross-community housing.

It shows that political leaders are, in fact, aware of what the vast majority of voters want and have some idea of a plan to realise our aspirations.

Another LucidTalk poll of young people for this newspaper revealed widespread disillusionment with politicians; specifically, the young doubt politicians' ability to work together for peace. For the sake of all our futures, prove them wrong.

It seems obvious from this research that most politicians do not have much direct appeal for young voters: younger citizens want politicians to move beyond traditional green and orange bunkers, discussing matters which are of importance to the majority of the coming generation.

They aspire to live in neighbourhoods which house people of all traditions; they want to see schools bringing children of all backgrounds together.

Their wish for their own children to learn, grow and play together without traditional divisions is evidence of a commitment to a truly shared future.

  • Tina Merron is chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund

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