Taoiseach tells young people in Derry their views are crucial

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told an event in Derry that young people bring “new experience, perspective and imagination” to discussions on the future of Ireland.
Micheal Martin.Micheal Martin.
Micheal Martin.

The Irish leader’s remarks came in his online opening address to the 11th Shared Island Dialogue event which took place at St Columb’s Hall this week.

The event brought together more than 100 young people to explore a wide range of identity issues such as culture, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and ability.

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Mr Martin hailed the contribution that young people can make to future debate on how we can share the island.

He said: “We need to hear the views of young people who will play the greatest role in shaping that future. You bring new experience and perspective, less preconception and more imagination.

“For too long in the history of this island, we misunderstood each other across our different identities and political traditions. We perpetuated myths about other sections of the community, North and South. About the legitimacy of others’ identity, culture, beliefs, needs and aspirations.

There were some who sought to obscure our very shared humanity. And this saw dark and violent moments in our recent past, which have left a legacy of pain and trauma to this day, that still has to be properly addressed.”

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The Taoiseach said that, by endorsing the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the people of the island, North and South, “definitively dispelled the old myths”.

“It is by living up to these principles of the Agreement since 1998 that we have achieved an enduring peace and a priceless opportunity for a truer reconciliation on this island,” he added.

“But, clearly today there is no room for complacency. There is a way to go if we really are to not just acknowledge, but fully accommodate and celebrate our different identities on this island.”

Mr Martin said that people, generally, were ahead of the politics of the peace process.

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“They know that identity isn’t a political contest - its a personal construct. An accident of birth, experience and individual make-up.”

He said that, with peace and the principles of the 1998 Agreement, “we have created the space to not just acknowledge, but to fully harness and genuinely celebrate our different identities.”

He said inspiring contributions and commitment by young people were key to building a shared, reconciled future on this island.