It is us, as activists, who need to lead the fight to make Ireland a visionary state, one of opportunity for the many, not the few. Where young people see no future, we need to campaign for a vision of equality for all – one where there is opportunity to learn, live, and work where we want to.
Labour Youth activist, Evin Ryan, laments the current government’s lack of vision and outlines why young people must urgently organise and campaign for decent work, decent pubic services and a decent future.
This is no country for young men. For those of us who are not metropolitan young professionals, the future still looks volatile. Where we seek leadership; where we seek improvement; where we seek a vision – there is none. Where is our respite?
I’m surrounded by people who have been failed in this Republic of Opportunity. My friends who cannot afford to go to university; who find themselves earning a pittance in supermarkets; earning even less in an apprenticeship; or still in the dole queue. As a system, SUSI has failed to deliver. There is no vision for the future of young people in Fine Gael’s Ireland.
Those who are lucky enough to afford college find themselves being paid below minimum wage to make ends meet. We need to fight for the availability of college and apprenticeships to all. This is merely the first step in the fight, however. Across the country, accommodation prices are being jacked up, fuelled by the housing crisis at hand.
Contrary to the belief of many, a third level education is not something which is reserved for the middle classes. Tomorrow morning, Leaving Cert students will wake up in a hotel room – their home. What hope do these people have of advancing to third level? How can they take an apprenticeship with no fixed abode? When we fail one citizen of Ireland, we fail them all.
Last November at Labour Youth Conference, I passed a resolution calling for firm rent controls for all student rented accommodation – if a landlord wants to make money from students, they would have to join a register and adhere to reasonable pricing. If this was to happen, it can rationalise the grants system. Our demands most modest are, we want to train young people for the future. We want to see all the people of our country given the opportunity to make Ireland a better place. These people will be paying into the system for their entire careers, it’s the least we should be doing to help them on their way.
Do not be fooled, the recovery has not reached much of Ireland – and a lot of us are struggling to see when it’s going to arrive. It’s certainly not arriving by rail – Project 2040 has conveniently decided to ignore the serious task of making public transport fit for purpose. In fact, Project 2040 has conveniently decided to ignore many of the counties of Ireland which are in the most need of some Keynesian investment.
But sure, many shrug, what difference does that make? You don’t need to look very hard to see why this is a problem. Taking Wexford as an example, it is easy to see the issue. It is the county with the lowest amount of college graduates per capita, the unemployment rate is double the national average, and it is the third most deprived county in the country.
Infrastructure is about getting people to work; getting people to college; and getting people to do business. It is, however, lacking. The intercity train averages a speed of 65km/h, and the buses are even slower. The effect of infrastructure is quite noticeable – industry is not interested in the county, only 1 in 200 site visits by the Industrial Development Authority are to Wexford. Surely, however, there is a plan to fix this in Project 2040? The answer is no – not a single project is planned for the county under the plan. Wexford is not alone in the increasingly two tier republic of opportunity.
Last month, leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, proposed free travel for under 25s. This was one of the most refreshing and energising new policy proposals I have seen for quite a while. We need to begin to understand the plight of the young. Last November, my proposals to reshape Labour Youth’s policy to call for free travel were unanimously accepted. Whether this is done by way of a personal travel allowance – to allow people to get to work; to college; to the local town, or by allowing uncapped free travel, this policy in practice would reshape this country. This can provide better, faster travel times for all. In the coming years, we will see scope for significant investment in all areas of the economy. We cannot waste this opportunity to give back to the young, and to give a brighter future to the next generation.
Right now, there are people suffering all across the country. The predicament we find ourselves in is the result of the government’s failure to have a vision for the future of Ireland. As young people, it is our duty to organise for our future. A living wage for all should be an expectation, rather than a right. We must fight against the two main parties for our vision of social housing – designed; built; and maintained by councils in the public interest, rather than their naïve view of developers designing for the common good. It is us, as activists, who need to lead the fight to make Ireland in a visionary state, one of opportunity for the many, not the few. Where young people see no future, we need to campaign for a vision of equality for all – one where there is opportunity to learn, live, and work where we want to.
This is what we are capable of, if we have a vision. But as I have said, this is no country for young men.
(The views expressed in Left Tribune articles are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Labour Youth).