The Brexit fears of our young people

Sean McCleary from Monaghan Town, Katie McGuinness from Collon, Co Louth, and Hugh Fitzgerald from Cork City. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ian Begley

Young people across Ireland fear Brexit will limit their opportunities.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone heard calls to protect children on both sides of the Border at a forum examining the effects of Brexit on young people.

The conference in Croke Park heard the views of teenagers across the country from the Comhairle Na nÓg youth council. Their ideas will be made into a report and submitted to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Fifth-year student Katie McGuinness from Co Louth told the Irish Independent that Brexit has turned her off going to college in the UK.

"Following Brexit, certain grants for colleges in the North or in Britain may no longer apply here. Studying in the UK was definitely one of my options, but I'm kind of turned off it now.

"I'm worried that college tuition will go way up for Irish students studying in the UK and that applying for a visa would make everything more complicated."

Kayla O’Hara from Clondalkin at the Young People and Brexit discussion at Croke Park. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sean McCleary (17), who lives directly on the Border in Monaghan, says the prospect of needing his passport to go to the shops is "just ridiculous".

"I really hope that check-points won't be put up by my house because I only live about a kilometre from the Border in Armagh. I really don't want to be bringing my passport to go to the closest shop or even up the road to my friends. The thought of this is just ridiculous. I think Brexit is definitely a step back for us," he said.

Keyla O'Hara, from Presentation College, Terenure, Dublin, told the Irish Independent that her biggest concern of Brexit is travel restrictions.

"If you have family in England or in the North it would be such a hassle if you needed a visa," said the 17-year-old.

"One of my close friends lives in the North, who I can currently visit whenever I want, but once Brexit comes into force it won't be so easy with a hard border and visa restrictions put in place."

Hugh Fitzgerald from Cork, who intends to study in Scotland, believes Brexit has limited his and other young people's opportunities. The 17-year-old said: "I was really interested in studying at Edinburgh University, which would have been free for an Irish national up until this point.

"I may still be able to get in for free, but I'm worried for other young people who want to study in the UK down the line."

Ms Zappone said she does not buy into claims that children and young people have no interest in the future of our country.

"Brexit is about ensuring there is no division, no break up of services and for those who live along the Border it is about everyday life," she said.