‘All young people must have a voice in a new Ireland’

A DONEGAL youth work practitioner has said a new Ireland must not lose sight of the importance of a voice for all young people.

Lorraine Thompson is Regional Director of Donegal Youth Service. Speaking at the recent Donegal People’s Assembly on the future of Ireland in Balor Arts Centre in Ballybofey, she raised concerns that the voices of young people in Donegal are “not always heard the way they should be”. She said a spotlight must be shone on any gaps.

“It feels we are just so far away from Dublin that the services are not brought up to the area,” she said.


The event was organised by Sinn Féin, with speakers including cancer campaigner Noelle Duddy, former Chief Excutive of Donegal County Council, Seamus Neely and CEO of Letterkenny Chamber, Toni Forrester.

Ms Thompson has been working with Donegal Youth Services for 25 years. She said she has witnessed the shift from general youth work to a focus on cross-border and reconciliation, which, she admitted, was challenging, at first.

“It was a challenge for us to get people from Donegal interested in the border and politics in Northern Ireland. But, what we came to realise was that once we got young people together to talk about their common issues, and the things that mattered to them, it was easy.

“It was easy to get them in to a room to talk about things like education, interests, infrastructure and services they did or did not have. For us within the youth sector we met with counterparts to have shared learning events to see how we could make our services better for our young people, because at the end of the day we wanted to give them the best deal possible.”

Ms Thompson spoke about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people in Donegal.

“Our last major scale project was around mental health and navigating that through the pandemic; from helping young people with mental health and the legacy of the pandemic.”

She said funding is crucial in order to continue reaching young people.


“Unfortunately, that tranche of funding is now coming to an end and we have to apply for the next pot. That is just the nature of how it goes. What I am trying to say is we do our best with what we have in the community and voluntary sector.

“I could go on about the impacts of cuts and how we are constantly turning the next stone and rock over to find out if there is funding, but we do it because we know there are opportunities for young people which they wouldn’t normally get otherwise.”

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