The Youth Justice in Action campaign was taken to the Dáil in June 2009, along with the demands of 40 young campaigners.
Ireland's Youth Justice in Action Solidarity Day took place on Wednesday 17 June, with young people from across Ireland coming together in the capital to prepare messages for their politicians. They took encouragement from their peers around the world by receiving phone calls of support from young campaigners in Sierra Leone, South Africa and Togo.
Then the young people took to the streets of Dublin where they performed street drama sketches to illustrate the problems with the youth justice system in Ireland and the need for rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for young offenders. Talented break dancers helped to draw in the crowd.
Then it was onto the Dáil where a meeting was held with the Minister of Justice, Dermot Ahern. The Minister was questioned on the Government’s practice of detaining 16 year olds with adults and on plans to put off the building of a new prison to alleviate the problem, due to financial cutbacks. The Minister was initially defensive about the state of prison care for young people, but as the debate went on, he admitted that the system was not perfect and that a lot of work still needed to be done. Talking with young people who had direct experience of the criminal justice system clearly had an impact on him and it led to a lively debate.
Earlier that day three young people met with Ciaran Cuffe TD. They presented their concerns to him, outlining the reasons behind the day of action and the requirements of the UN resolution on juvenile justice (read more here). This resolution is particularly important because it includes a paragraph (paragraph 10) on the rehabilitation and reintegration of young offenders through education programmes.
After their discussions, Mr Cuffe said that it was an honour to meet with a group of young people who “spoke from the heart”. He agreed to table questions to the Dáil and encouraged the young people to meet with the Committee on Justice to raise awareness of the UN resolution.
By bringing the Youth Justice in Action message to the Dáil, the campaign team took a big step towards making the Irish justice systems fairer for young people.
Youth Justice in Action is an initiative of Y Care International.