More than 60 young people from County Kilkenny attended the recent Kilkenny Comhairle na nOg annual general meeting at Hotel Kilkenny to elect other young people as their representatives from the five electoral Areas of Ballyragget, Kilkenny City, Callan, Thomastown and Piltown.
In total 10 new Comhairle councillors were elected for a two-year term.
Activities and games were also performed with young people and were facilitated by senior members of the Comhairle. Then followed a comprehensive report by the group about their achievements and challenges over the past two years.
The graffiti project was deemed a success, and the group thanked Kilkenny County Council’s committee on arts, culture, heritage, tourism and education for their support on this project.
The group launched their road show report where they had engaged with young people from the five electoral areas in Kilkenny.
The development of a skate park was again highlighted. The Comhairle reported on the progress made so far, meeting with residents, meeting with councillors and making submission/petitions on the development of a skate park and also the difficulties that the group is facing to progress this topic with decision makers.
The Kilkenny Comhairle and young people in attendance agreed to continue to lobby for a skate ark in Kilkenny and also agreed that it should be a public amenity as is the case with skate parks in other counties.
The second workshop looked at mental health, in particular with regards to suicide and self-harm among young people. Delivered by the local branch of the Samaritans, the workshop started with a role play, which was followed by a discussion on related scenarios. The Samaritans highlighted the need to understand that “it is okay not to be okay” and to realise that every person goes through a period where thing are not okay.
The need to talk to someone if affected by something was emphasised. They also spoke about the importance of active listening, and a DVD was shown to the group depicting the importance of active listening to people around you and to develop skills that can alert you on the tell-tale signs about your own mental health and those around you.
The subject of bullying featured prominently in the discussions and how this contributed to mental health challenges to those affected by it. Concerns about lack of information on mental health were raised and the majority called for mental health to be included in their school curriculum.
The final workshop focused on what young people want the new members of the group to work on during their term of office. Mental health and the effects it has on young people and the development of a skate park will be the main topics for the Comhairle, and they will also be working on short-term topics such as a campaign for a zebra crossing for a local school, environmental awareness with regards to litter and particularly dog fouling on footpaths.
The event was opened and closed by the Mayor Seán Ó hArgáin, who congratulated the Comhairle on work done and asked them to elevate the challenge of making the voice of young people heard and for them to continue engaging with decision makers on issues that affect young people in Kilkenny. Throughout the day, local councillors and TDs visited the event and had informed discussions with young people.