Thomas Pringle TD

More funding for community and youth programmes to engage young people

Thomas Pringle TD - More funding for community and youth programmes to engage young people

Pringle: Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said he supported the focus on early intervention and prevention in the National Youth Justice Strategy, but questioned whether youth diversion programmes belong under the Justice Department.

He also called for increased funding and resources for young people and youth work in Donegal and across the country.

Addressing the Dáil today (Wednesday) during statements on the National Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027, Deputy Pringle said: “Justice, in my experience, is focused on the protection of the State, not focused on young people and the need for protection of young people, and I think that’s what’s vitally important. And we should be devising policies that are protecting young people.”

He said he thought youth diversion programmes would be better served within the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Deputy Pringle said: “I welcome this strategy in its attempt to address youth crime in a holistic, multi-agency and proactive way, focusing on early intervention and preventative work. This type of work, although very effective, is often overlooked and this government has a history of only addressing issues after they arise, instead of putting the supports in place to actually affect real and meaningful societal change that would not create such issues in the first place.

“This government, as well as successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments, have so often failed in making proactive policy-making decisions, forcing a reactive approach to almost every area of government policy.” The mica issue is a prime example of detrimental effects of reactive instead of proactive and preventative policy approaches, he said.

However, he said he had a serious concern, shared by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, with the suggestion that the Garda Youth Diversion Project target children aged 8 to 11 for preventative measures, on the basis of their possible future criminal involvement.

Deputy Pringle said: “I find this suggestion very worrying and I feel it would be neither an effective nor a welcome strategy.” He urged the minister “to review and reconsider this strategy completely.”

Deputy Pringle said: “Although I agree that we should be engaging young people at risk before they enter the justice system, there is a way to do this through communities and through schools without the need of targeting individuals or groups. The importance of positive participation in community life cannot be underestimated. I have seen in my own community of Killybegs the profound impact community participation has had on young people and how much this participation shapes them throughout adolescence. The Minister said, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ I agree with him on that.

“But we need additional funding and resources for young people and youth work in my constituency and nationally and I strongly support the NYCI #YouthWorkChangesLives campaign. I hope that this need for funding is addressed in next week’s budget, where it will actually be sorely needed.

“Most importantly, youth justice policy, like all policies relating to young people, should be informed by the voices of young people. These voices need to be heard and respected if we truly want to make positive and progressive changes in this country and I think that is vitally important,” Deputy Pringle said.