Report reflecting the fears of children and young people on both sides of the Border given to MPs and TDs
A report by young Irish people from both sides of the Border expressing concerns about the impact of Brexit on education, healthcare and minorities was handed to MPs and TDs this week.
The report, entitled It’s Our Brexit Too: Children’s Rights, Children’s Voices gives the views of 120 young people from both sides of the Border on education, child protection, freedom of movement, family life and healthcare. It was handed to Labour MP Hilary Benn, Chair of the House of Commons Committee for Exiting the EU and to the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Better Brexit for Children and Young People.
It had been scheduled to be discussed at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Sligo but that event was cancelled because of bad weather.
The children urged British and Irish politicians to ensure that their opportunities for work, travel and study are not limited by Brexit.
In all, it makes 35 recommendations to safeguard young people in Ireland and the UK from the worst feared effects of Brexit and was produced after a one-day cross-border conference in Newry last November, organised by Ireland’s Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon and Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma.
The conference heard presentations from Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chloe Smyth MP, and senior British, Irish and Northern Irish civil servants and MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Jim Nicholson.
Mr Coveney, who addressed the conference by video link, says in the report: “Young people voting in the UK referendum were not as supportive of Brexit. Now we have to make the best of a difficult situation and make sure that your voices, your concerns, and your dreams for the future are reflected in how Brexit is approached.”
A key sentiment expressed by the children taking part is that they will have to live with Brexit but did not have any say in voting for or against it. The report says young people do not want to return to the conflict of the past and calls for the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement to be respected. It argues that money the UK government hitherto paid in to the EU should, after Brexit, be ringfenced for health services and to compensate for the loss of EU funding to Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma: “Young people have real concerns that issues central to their lives and future opportunities could be unintentionally impacted.
“I hope this report will influence discussions and planning for Brexit and that all the key players, both in the UK and in the ‘European 27’ will take on board the voices of this most important cohort of society when determining the final look of a post Brexit world.”
Ireland’s Children’s Ombudsman Niall Muldoon said: “Young people wanted assurance that they could continue to attend schools unhindered on a cross-border basis, and that no child should have to move school.”
In their report the young people also wanted assurances that the Border would not hinder ambulances and that children, young people and their families have access to health, education, sports and cultural services and facilities on either side of Border. They called on the British government to commit to continuing membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) and to ensure retention of the European Health Insurance card.
“People should continue to be able to access health services closest to home, irrespective of whether this is on the other side of the Border,” they said.
The report expresses children’s concerns that the British government might not be taking as much action as it might against intolerance toward migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
It said: “Governments should run campaigns and fund public awareness programmes on diversity and non-discrimination. “The media should promote diversity and provide information on issues relating to discrimination.
“A specific strategy should be developed to deal with discrimination in Northern Ireland and legislation brought forward to protect women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and to allow immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation.”
The report says: “It was clear at the event that young people felt there had not been enough consideration about the realities of (their) lives and how decisions about the Common Travel Area, the Border or the loss of EU Funding programmes could have an impact on (their) lives now, and far into the future.”