Taoiseach celebrates World Children’s Day with 15-year-old #KidsTakeOver winner and activist

19th November 2020

Ministers O’Gorman, Foley, Coveney and McEntee host virtual conversations

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin listens to UNICEF Ireland’s #KidsTakeOver winner Ruairí (15) speak about his views on homophobia, and how to tackle the problem, on the occasion of World Children’s Day 2020, November 20 © Merrion St

UPDATED Dublin 20 Nov 2020 – An Taoiseach Micheál Martin gave one teenager a unique opportunity today, on World Children’s Day, Friday November 20.

Mr Martin hosted a one-on-one virtual meeting with Ruairí Holohan, UNICEF’s #KidsTakeOver 2020 winner.

World Children’s Day is a day of action for children, by children, and this year’s focus is on how to reimagine a better future.

15-year-old Ruairí from Co. Louth spoke to the Taoiseach about his experience of homophobia and together they discussed what can be done to increase respect for LGBTQ+ youth.

Ruairí outlines his vision for a post-Covid world: “My reimagined world is a place where I could walk down the street being the person I am when I’m with my friends, in school, or performing – when I’m happy. I could be myself, and every day would be Pride – there wouldn’t need to be a Pride parade. There would be no need to ‘come out’, because you would just be yourself. My sexual orientation may be different to others, but that doesn’t make me different to other people. I don’t want any young person to be the target of hate or disrespect, or to fear being attacked verbally or physically.”

The Taoiseach told Ruairí: “What you are doing now is very important. You may not even realise it. Through life, we all change things, we have opportunities to do the right thing. You are doing the right thing. You stood up, you are affirming issues, you are raising them. That is so important for your peers. When you look back, you will have changed attitudes. We all can be agents of change in our lives and in our behaviour.”

And An Taoiseach outlined his vision for a reimagined future for children: “The most important thing in life is education and learning. Where I think we can do better into the future in Ireland is in improving the quality of early childhood development. We learn more from the age of 0-3 than at any other time in our lives. Our brains are like sponges and attitudes form. At the earliest years you can inculcate the values we cherish, of tolerance, of diversity, of difference. That’s what I would love to see us do at the UN and at the European Union.”

Ruairí prepared for his meeting with An Taoiseach with the support of his peers on a UNICEF activism course. To learn more about that work, visit unicef.ie © UNICEF Ireland

Ruairí is just one of a group on #YoungChangemakers UNICEF has brought forward for meetings with Cabinet Ministers this week. They are raising issues such as youth mental health, inclusion and an education system that works for all members of society.

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman T.D. took part in a group call, answering questions relating to all areas of his brief. When asked how he would reimagine the world for children, post-Covid the Minister said: “Covid-19 has highlighted inequalities in society, be they financial, caused by disability, or as a result of being marginalised. Those on the edge have been pushed even further to the edge of society. We have to do more to deal with inequality. Giving young people access to voice is part of that. We have to work to make our country and world more equal. We have to share resources more fairly. In my Department, that means to the benefit of children and those who are vulnerable”.

Minister for Education, Norma Foley T.D. shared her vision for a reimagined world: “Covid-19 was a learning experience for us all. The resilience that young people have shown has been extraordinary. Where there were challenges you met them. In a post-Covid world I would hope students will continue to show that same resilience and determination, the same generous goodwill to supporting each other. I would like to see the advocacy they were engaged in continue. Providing a voice is very important, particularly for those who don’t have a voice. As Minister, I want education to be a positive, happy and uplifting experience for all, where we can draw upon everything we learned during Covid and continue to learn together.”

And in partnership with IOM, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney T.D. and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee have also held virtual conversations with young people.

Also supporting World Children’s Day, RTÉ2’s After School Hub has been sharing messages about children’s rights, and welcoming in ‘guest presenters’ as part of their own #KidsTakeOver. UNICEF Ambassador Donncha O’Callaghan also popped in to set earlier in the week to share his experiences of travelling with UNICEF, witnessing in particular the importance of the child’s right to play in emergency situations.

Elsewhere, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors David Beckham, Millie Bobby Brown and Orlando Bloom are among those hosting virtual conversations with young people.

World Children’s Day – now in its fourth year – aims to raise awareness and funds for the millions of children that are denied their right to adequate health care, nutrition, education and protection.