Approximately 170 young people were in attendance for the Young People’s Assembly in Liberty Hall last Saturday. The assembly was the first event of its kind, as a broad assembly of Irish youth in response to what was termed the “crisis facing young people,” referring to youth unemployment, lack of affordable housing available, precarious work and issues of mental health. The event was organised by the We’re Not Leaving campaign, and supported by students unions from across the country, the Union of Students in Ireland, youth committees of trade unions (the event was hosted at Liberty Hall by the Young Workers Network), and organisations such as Spunout.ie.
The assembly revolved around the creation of a “Youth Charter” which intended to articulate and codify youth discontentment with the crisis, and government measures to it address it such as Jobbridge and the encouragement of internships. Discussion groups about organisation and strategy followed the production of the charter in order to decide how best to move the We’re Not Leaving campaign forward.
The charter itself was created as a result of seven discussion groups of approximately 20 attendees, which spent two hours each discussing two of five topics. Each group had a moderator, and two facilitators knowledgeable on the topic being discussed at the time.
Following the conclusion of the two hours; the moderators convened to produce the charter based on integrating the consensuses reached in their individual groups. The different sections of the charter were then voted on by attendees by a show of hands, with all sections passing. The five sections were: unemployment & forced emigration, internship culture & precarious work, fee hikes & grant cuts, deficit of affordable housing, and issues surrounding mental health. Each section contains a list of demands addressed to government, employers, and society at large.
President of the Union of Students of Ireland Joe O’Connor was one of the knowledgeable facilitators regarding fee cuts and grant hikes. Other facilitators included Mick Byrne from the Provisional University, Dublin MEP Paul Murphy (Socialist Party), Ballybrack Councillor Hugh Lewis (People Before Profit), trade union youth branch committee members, and We’re Not Leaving organisers.
The assembly revolved around the creation of a “Youth Charter” which intended to articulate and codify youth discontentment with the crisis, and measures to it address it such as Jobbridge and the encouragement of internships
There have also been regional Youth Assemblies in Kildare on the 7th of November and in Galway on the 5th. The We’re Not Leaving Campaign also organised several stunts aimed at raising awareness at issues facing young people in Ireland, particularly in the wake of the most recent budget. On the 1st of November, a scene was set up outside Leinster House on Kildare Street to protest the cuts to Jobseekers allowance under 26, as the Social Welfare Bill was before the Seanad. The stunt was conceptually based on the comments made by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore that young people “should not be at home watching a flat-screen television seven days a week.”
One side of the scene had characters depicting the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Minister for Social Protection drinking champagne and watching young people emigrate on a flatscreen TV, while the other side had young people unable to find work huddled on a couch watching political decisions being made on a small TV while surrounded by rejected job applications. On the 23rd of October, a similar scene was constructed outside the Dáil, with two doors; one marked “€100” representing the reduced jobseekers allowance for under 25’s under the new budget, and another door marked “emigration” with a queue of young people, highlighting the conditions of forced emigration.
Speaking on Primetime last night, We’re Not Leaving organiser Moira Murphy said “There is age discrimination in the dole cuts, people from the age of 18 to 21 are already living on €100 a week, nobody should have to do that. ” In response to Dublin North West TD John Lyons (Labour) that Jobbridge has been successful at combating youth unemployment, she continued; “just to put it out there, what Jobbridge is, its a free labour scheme where people are working for €50 extra on top of what now, if you take on the dole cut to a hundred euro, you’re working for €150 a week. If that’s an average 35 hour working week, you are earning €3.85 an hour. How is that acceptable?”
Disclosure: the writer was involved in the organisation of the Young People’s Assembly and the We’re Not Leaving Campaign
Below is the text of the Youth Charter:
Youth Charter of the 9 November Young People’s Assembly #werenotleaving
Across Ireland a generational gulf is forming. Years on from the bank guarantee and the imposition of austerity, we now live in an anti-democratic society that locks young people out from basic social protections and the decision-making processes that impact on our lives and futures. The result is common negative experiences – such as fee hikes & grant cuts, youth unemployment, forced emigration, escalating mental health crises, corporate internship culture, lack of affordable housing, precarious and unpaid work – being aggressively foisted on us but not caused by us. We won’t accept this ‘new normal’ of increasing impoverishment or be their ‘safety-release valve’ through forced emigration. Young people played no part in creating this crisis of the wealthy, the corrupt and the powerful – and we will not tolerate these attacks on our present and futures to pay for it.
This is a call out to any young person who feels ready to take that step into getting organised with their generation to fight back against all the crap, against all the corruption, against all their attacks on our lives.
On Saturday 9 November at the Young People’s Assembly in Liberty Hall, the largest and broadest gathering of young people since the crisis began – for the first time bringing together students, the young unemployed, precarious workers and their representative organisations – started work on a common charter and strategies to get organised and fight back.
Facilitated by the We’re Not Leaving campaign, the Young People’s Assembly collectively produced the following:
PRECARIOUS WORK & CORPORATE INTERNSHIP CULTURE
1. That companies be barred from displacing current paid workers with internship positions.
2. That a day’s work should equal a day’s pay – a living wage.
3. An end to the institutional normalisation of internship culture and the commencement of independent monitoring of internship schemes.
4. Stability and security in the workplace in terms of hours, income and location.
5. That the concept of “experience” should not replace paid work.
1. Universal access to free, local and high-quality public mental health services.
2. A collective and social approach to the de-stigmatisation of mental health issues and that positive mental health be promoted in the community, workplace and education system.
3. Recognition of the impact of precarious work, internship culture, unemployment and poverty on the mental heath of young people in Ireland.
YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT & FORCED EMIGRATION
1. That young people who have been forced to emigrate must have the right to vote in elections in Ireland.
2. An end to the recruitment embargo within the public sector.
3. The recognition of our status as adults in society.
4. That our trade unions be recognised and be allowed to collectively bargain on our behalf.
5. Real job creation from the government instead of token measures.
1. That quality, accessible housing be recognised as a universal social right – free from discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age and/or ethnicity – and that this right is guaranteed by the state.
2. Strong regulation of landlords and developers in order to control housing costs and ensure access to adequate housing.
3. That the state utilise the existing social-housing stock, as well as properties belonging to NAMA and the bailed out banks, in the interest of the public.
FEE HIKES & GRANT CUTS
1. A third-level education system that is truly free at the first point of entry that is funded by a system of progressive taxation.
2. A grant system be put in place for all stages of further and higher education, which enables access to education for everyone in society and reflects the cost of living.
3. The recognition of the broader non-economic benefits of education, as well as the recognition of the economic and social role that the students of today will play in the society of tomorrow.
4. Solidarity between all student representative bodies and the encouragement of political learning and engagement at all levels of education.
This opening draft will be further developed in the coming weeks and months, but we hope this inclusive charter by and for young people will help us to finally come together in solidarity to organise and fight for an alternative Ireland for young people – for a profoundly different vision of social justice for this society.
We’re students, the young unemployed, precarious workers and mixes of all three – we’re angry and #werenotleaving.