Thursday, 11 November 1976
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. O'Kennedy: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will propose to the Council of Ministers of the European Community the establishment of a fund to aid joint programmes of co-operation between voluntary youth organisations in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Mr. Kelly: While the Minister would welcome co-operation between voluntary youth organisations on either side of the Border, his Department have not received any approach about a programme of such co-operation.
With regard to assistance from the European Community there are no existing budgetary provisions which could be availed of to assist projects of the type suggested by the Deputy and none of the present programmes relating to youth activities provides a basis for a special fund as envisaged in the question.
He would not regard it as realistic to ask the Community, in the present stage of its evolution, to set up a special fund outside of existing programmes directed towards a particular politico-social problem in one area of the Community.
Mr. O'Kennedy: The Parliamentary Secretary will recognise that the politico-social problem in that area of the country is especially acute. Having regard to the fundamental aims of the Community to bring about peace and understanding, he will recognise that there is an urgency to look to the special needs of that area. Could I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, in view of all of that, if the Government would not consider activating the Community or even the European youth forum of that Community to launching a campaign whereby these dedicated youth organisations can get together to work to eradicate the causes of disorder and violence for which object organisations on both sides have been established? Can I tell the Parliamentary Secretary that there was a scheme of co-operation between these organisations during the term of office of the previous Administration? I do  not know what has happened to it in the meantime.
Mr. Kelly: The information I have comes from early last year. The information on the European youth forum is probably what the Deputy is talking about. It would involve delegates from representative youth organisations and the discussion of community measures with respect to their effect on youth, and it was proposed to set up a committee for youth questions. The Commission envisaged that in the long term this committee would consider securing co-operation of youth affairs such as the promotion of youth exchanges between member states, and the mobility of youth workers and youth service administrators through exchange schemes.
These Commission proposals for a youth forum met with some opposition and the Commission then proposed the creation of a temporary youth secretariat. The secretariat was the subject of agreement and it got a grant of 50 thousand units on account from the Commission, but was working independently of it. It would function as a liaison organisation between EEC institutions and youth groups in the community. I think an existing youth group here or in the North of Ireland which has a programme for a project which was relevant to the aims of this secretariat ought to approach it. Certainly the Government would be sympathetic to the general ideas expressed by the Deputy.
Mr. O'Kennedy: There is a suggestion that the Government's responsibility would not be sufficiently discharged by reacting to what these youth organisations would be doing but that the Government would take the initiative themselves in this area and propose, as I have asked, to the Community through its various agencies that they would launch such a campaign to ensure co-ordination of youth activity and to bring these young people closer together and thereby eradicate causes of some of the most terrible violence we have had.
Mr. Kelly: I share the Deputy's starting point and his conclusions, all but the idea that this step he wants the Minister to take is the right one. The Minister's judgment is that it is not realistic at this point in the Community's development.
Mr. O'Kennedy: Could it not be guaranteed that what has obviously not been done in the past for whatever reason would now at least be considered? We might begin to show that we are capable of taking initiatives in this terrible area rather than simply waiting and waiting for someone else to propose something to us that we have the obligation to propose ourselves.
Mr. Kelly: Any initiative which comes from a Government must be very carefully launched and carefully controlled because it may carry for the very people you are aiming at a stigma which will ensure they will have nothing to do with it. I say this in no contentious spirit, but it would be more useful if youth organisations themselves, here or in the North, would apply for assistance to the very limited fund which is at present considered.
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