Donegal teenager plays key role on OCO Youth Advisory Panel

A Donegal teenager was involved in hosting an event by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) that saw over 100 children from across Ireland taking part.

Karolina Byrne (17) from Glenties is a member of the OCO’s Youth Advisory Panel.

She was part of a group that traveled to Geneva for a special presentation while she also hosted a major conference at Croke Park.


She was among a number of young people who gathered to discuss the action they expect from the Government as a result of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s Concluding Observations to the State.

‘Pieces of Us; What’s Next?’ has been published by the OCO, detailing what children now want to happen on key issues.

It follows a series of reports by the OCO as part of Ireland’s reporting process to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. 5,515 children took part in a national online survey and 200 children participated in focus groups for Pieces of Us, the children’s report that went to the UN Committee in August 2022.

Karolina and the Youth Advisory Panel traveled to Geneva to share the findings of Pieces of Us. She also hosted the event in Croke Park hearing directly from children on what they had to say about the issues children care about in Ireland.

Education, mental health, equality, play and leisure, hearing children’s voices and protecting the most vulnerable were the key themes for children.

Children are calling for a series of changes in schools and education settings.

They want to take the pressure out of the Leaving Certificate; remove the stigma around the Leaving Cert Applied and Leaving Cert Vocational Programme.


They want more cultural awareness training for teachers and better disability services.

In mental health children want more, and better staff for CAMHS. They want shorter waiting lists and an understanding that you cannot be ‘too young’ to experience mental health issues.

They want more mental health support services in schools and improvements in transgender healthcare.

Speaking about the event, Karolina said: “As a host of Pieces of Us – What’s Next? it gave me insight on what other children thought.

“It has also helped me see how much the children of Ireland have to say.

“As a teenager at this event hosting I think that it made me more aware of what children have to share. It makes you wonder why the government haven’t listened to the children of Ireland”

The Ombudsman for Children, Donegal man Dr Niall Muldoon said: “Hearing directly from children and considering their views in the decision making process is essential.

“Pieces of Us: What’s Next? provides Government and policy makers with a clear insight into children’s priorities.

“The OCO Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) led this whole process and their hard work and commitment have been key not only to the success of the report, but to the impact that it has had in influencing the concluding observations.”

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