Comhairle na nÓg are child and youth councils in the 34 City and County Development Board (CDB) areas of the country. They were set up to give children and young people (under the voting age of 18) a voice in the development of local services and policies. All CDBs have regular meetings of Comhairle na nÓg, which link with adult decision-making bodies.
Comhairle na nÓg were established under the National Children’s Strategy (2000), which is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Comhairle na nÓg Annual General Meetings
Every Comhairle na nÓg holds an Annual General Meeting in September or October, to which children and young people are invited from local schools and youth groups. Attendance at AGMs ranges from 80 -150 young people, depending on the size of the city or county.
At the AGM, the young people pick the topics of most importance to them.
A Comhairle na nÓg Committee is elected at the AGM. This committee is responsible for working on the topics picked at the AGM and being the consultative forum that works with decision-makers.
How are young people’s voices heard through Comhairle na nÓg?
Comhairle na nÓg gets young people’s voices heard in two ways: working on young people’s topics; and acting as a consultative forum.
Working on young people’s topics:
One of the most important aspects of Comhairle na nÓg is that is allows young people to select and work on topics of importance to young people locally. Examples of the topics selected by young people include: mental health services for young people, facilities for young people, how young people are treated by the adult world and homophobic bullying.
The work of the Comhairle na nÓg on these topics includes: getting the views of other young people, doing background research, meeting with local decision-makers, developing surveys, organising meetings, making videos, producing leaflets or posters, developing online materials and other activities. Through this work, the Comhairle na nÓg members try to make an impact or change to improve the lives of young people.
Another major aspect of the work of the Comhairle na nÓg is being a consultative forum, for adult decision-makers in the locality. Many local agencies consult with their Comhairle na nÓg to get the views of young people on the development of relevant services and policies, such as heritage plans, play and recreation policies, policing plans, giving feedback on youth-friendly questionnaires, giving feedback on the location or type of new sports facility to be established in the area. Comhairle na nÓg are also often asked for submissions on local policies or to take part in public consultations.
How is Comhairle na nÓg funded?
Comhairle na nÓg is funded by a number of agencies. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) Comhairle na nÓg Development Fund provides money to local authorities to run effective Comhairle na nÓg. Local authorities also provide funding and resources for Comhairle na nÓg, as well as other organisations at local level.
How is Comhairle na nÓg supported?
As well as funding the 34 Comhairle na nÓg, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) also funds three regional Participation Officers, who provide advice, resources and training to all 34 Comhairle na nÓg Co-ordinators.
The Comhairle na nÓg Coordinator is the key organiser of Comhairle na nÓg. He or she is supported by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs Participation Officers, local colleagues and members of the Steering Committee.
Comhairle na nÓg Steering Committees help the Comhairle na nÓg to achieve their desired impact and change. Steering Committee members usually include a local authority representative, the Comhairle na nÓg Coordinator, local youth service representatives, the VEC Youth Officer and other relevant individuals and organisations.
Dáil na nÓg
Dáil na nÓg is the national parliament for young people aged 12-18 years. DCYA funds and oversees Dáil na nÓg, which is hosted every second year by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Delegates are elected to Dáil na nÓg by the 34 Comhairle na nÓg.
200 delegates attended the tenth annual Dáil na nÓg which took place in November 2011. The top recommendation from Dáil na nÓg 2011 was the need to find ways for young people to influence decision-making in the Dáil, the Seanad and local authorities.
Every alternate year, the Comhairle na nÓg National Showcase is hosted (see below). The next Dáil na nÓg event will take place in Croke Park in November 2013.
Comhairle na nÓg National Executive
One representative from each Comhairle na nÓg is elected to the Comhairle na nÓg National Executive, which follows up on the recommendations from Dáil na nÓg and tries to make changes for young people in those areas. The National Executive has a term of office of two years and meets once a month. The Executive is facilitated and supported by the DCYA, who ensure that they get the opportunity to engage with appropriate Ministers, policy-makers, Oireachtas Committees and other decision-makers.
The 2012-2013 Comhairle na nÓg National Executive is working on ways for young people to influence decision-making in the Dáil, the Seanad and local authorities.
Comhairle na nÓg Showcase:
The first Comhairle na nÓg Showcase event took place in Croke Park in November 2012 and was a terrific success. Over 400 representatives of all 34 Comhairlí attended on the day to showcase the topics they had been working on over the past number of years, and also to highlight their significant achievements. One of the main aims of the Showcase is to give adult decision makers from all over the country the opportunity to see and experience what Comhairle na nÓg has and can achieve. The next Showcase event will take place in November 2014.