Un­der-18s have a rep­u­ta­tion for tol­er­ance, but they are far from per­fect – es­pe­cially if you’re dif­fer­ent. Four teenagers talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW - Peter McGuire

What do young peo­ple make of Ire­land? How do their views on equal­ity dif­fer from those of their par­ents? Do they see this coun­try as a wel­com­ing place for women and mi­nori­ties?

A sur­vey re­leased by Youth Work Ire­land – in time for its # Equal­ity17 con­fer­ence on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 21st – in­ter­viewed a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of more than 1,000 young peo­ple from the 116,000 they work with.

Most of us l i ke to think we’re very open- minded, and even white su­prem­a­cists or op­po­nents of gay mar­riage usu­ally deny that they’re racist, ho­mo­pho­bic or in­tol­er­ant, so the sur­vey took a dif­fer­ent tack: in­stead of only ask­ing peo­ple for their own views on mi­nori­ties and equal­ity it also asked them to as­sess how tol­er­ant other young peo­ple are.

This is sim­i­lar to a po­lit­i­cal polling ques­tion which asks peo­ple to pre­dict who they think will be elected rather than who they will vote for them­selves. The an­swer tends to be closer to the ac­tual elec­tion out­come.

When it comes to mi­nor­ity groups, young peo­ple’s tol­er­ance lev­els dif­fer, with 95 per cent say­ing that their peers are ac­cept­ing of gay and bi­sex­ual peo­ple and that 89 per cent are ac­cept­ing of trans­gen­der peo­ple. An­other 89 per cent say young peo­ple are ac­cept­ing of peo­ple of colour.

For all this, only 66 per cent say that they are more ac­cept­ing and tol­er­ant of Mus­lims, while 74 per cent say that their gen­er­a­tion is tol­er­ant of dis­abled peo­ple. The low­est tol­er­ance fig­ure – 58 per cent – was for the Trav­eller and Roma com­mu­nity.

This fol­lows a re­cent sur­vey which found that just 9 per cent of peo­ple would ac­cept a mem­ber of the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity into their fam­ily.

Over­all, three in four young peo­ple say that they are more ac­cept­ing of im­mi­grants than their par­ents, while 91 per cent say that they are less in­flu­enced by the Catholic Church than previous gen­er­a­tions.

The in­ter­vie­wees

We spoke to four of the peo­ple in­volved with Youth Work Ire­land, and asked about their views on di­ver­sity in Ire­land to­day.

Deb­o­rah Fak­eye (16) doesn’t re­mem­ber be­ing born into di­rect pro­vi­sion. Her par­ents are orig­i­nally from Nige­ria, but she has only ever lived in Ire­land. She is the mid­dle of three chil­dren and lives in Moate, Co West­meath. She is cur­rently in fifth year.

Daniel Airey ( 20), is a sec­ond- year stu­dent of cre­ative dig­i­tal me­dia at IT Tal­laght. He has had cere­bral palsy since birth. Dan de­scribes him­self as “a sports nut” but he had to give up wheel­chair ten­nis fol­low­ing a hip re­place­ment three years ago. He lives with his par­ents and sis­ter in Dun­drum, Co. Dublin.

Aloisa Dias is 14. Five years ago her fami- ly moved from Goa in In­dia to Leitrim. She is a prac­tis­ing Catholic, but she re­jects many as­pects of the church’s teach­ing, in­clud­ing on abor­tion and LGBT rights. She has two younger sib­lings.

Finn O’Far­rell (18) is a stu­dent of lib­eral arts at Monaghan In­sti­tute. He was as­signed fe­male at birth and now iden­ti­fies as male. He started com­ing out as a trans­man at the be­gin­ning of fifth year, and to date his ex­pe­ri­ences have been largely pos­i­tive. He has one lit­tle brother and two older half-sib­lings. For some of his ex­tended fam­ily this ar­ti­cle will the first time they learn of his gender iden­tity.


Back home we were poor and every­one em­i­grated. My dad had al­ready worked here for 10 years so the idea of Ire­land wasn’t com­pletely alien to me, although when I stepped off the plane from In­dia I was in­stantly freez­ing. And for all I’d heard about Ire­land, I was the only brown face in the class and didn’t know how to act.


When I was young I looked at my friends play­ing football and thought: why me? But I’ve grown up in this wheel­chair and it doesn’t mean I can’t do things. When I was first born the doc­tors told my par­ents that I wouldn’t be able to walk, talk or write. They didn’t be­lieve them, and they passed on that de­fi­ance to me. I’ve been de­fy­ing and prov­ing peo­ple wrong through­out my life. My iden­tity? Sports nut. I may not be able to play but I love watch­ing them. I love mu­sic and I love be­ing young.


I’m a young black Ir­ish woman with Nige­rian heritage, but Ire­land is my home. I’ve only been to Nige­ria once for 10 days.


I al­ways had male and fe­male friends, but al­ways got on bet­ter with boys. Grow­ing up, I wasn’t al­lowed do “boy” things and I’d roar that I didn’t want to be a girl. When I was about 14, I heard the la­bel “trans” and I knew that, ac­tu­ally, I wasn’t [a girl].


Peo­ple ex­pect that I am Mus­lim or Hindu and can be sur­prised to l earn I’m a Mass-go­ing Catholic. In some ways my re­li­gion has helped me to fit in bet­ter in Ire­land. I used to try and hide that I was In­dian, and I’d ask my mum not to make me In­dian food for my school lunches be­cause

The level of ac­cep­tance and tol­er­ence for Mus­lims The low­est tol­er­ence fig­ure was for the Trav­eller and Roma com­mu­ni­ties

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