As part of UNICEF’s global initiative #KidsTakeOver, it aims to empower children and young people to take over key roles in media, politics, business, sport, and entertainment to express their concerns and ideas about the world they want to see. The initiative seeks to highlight the voices and opinions of children and young people on issues that affect them and to engage decision-makers and leaders in listening to their views and taking them into account.
If you want to participate in the next Taoiseach Takeover, you can apply online by filling in this form.
Donnacha Lehehan, (16) met with Taoiseach Micheál Martin at Government buildings to discuss online privacy, disinformation, and the mental health impacts of social media. He advocated for greater protection for children online. Donnacha spends much of his free time online, experiencing both its opportunities and risks.
During the meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated that while digital and online platforms offer immense opportunities for social connections and learning, they also pose challenges and risks, particularly for young people.
Donnacha believes that Ireland, as home to many of the world’s leading social media companies, has an opportunity to take the lead in protecting children online. He discussed the impact of disinformation and questioned whether Ireland has a responsibility to ensure that technology companies meet the highest standards in protecting children’s rights.
Liadh Dalton, a teenage farmer and climate activist from County Offaly, brought the voices of farming families to the Taoiseach’s office during the final phase of the critical COP26 climate negotiations. As the 2021 #KidsTakeOver winner, she met with Taoiseach Micheál Martin to discuss how everyone can collaborate to achieve a positive climate future for every child in Ireland by protecting nature and farming livelihoods.
During the meeting, Liadh discussed ways to bridge the gap between farming communities and climate activists to work together on sustainable solutions. She emphasized the importance of positive and open dialogue to tackle the climate crisis, stating that farmers play a positive role in addressing climate change, and their role as custodians of the land should be valued.
Liadh spoke about the simple things she does on her family’s farm to protect the environment, such as planting trees, wildflowers, and collecting rainwater. She believes that these small actions have a significant impact on preserving biodiversity and protecting wildlife. Liadh hopes that by communicating what farmers are already doing, they can learn about new sustainable solutions to protect the environment.
Ruairí Holohan (15) from Drogheda, Co. Louth was selected to stage this year’s #KidsTakeOver. During his Zoom call with the Taoiseach, Ruairí outlined the importance of achieving respect for all through schools’ programmes, highlighting, in particular, his personal experience of homophobic bullying. Ruairí spoke about his disappointment at the lack of education around issues facing young gay people in the RSE programmes offered currently. The Taoiseach listened carefully and agreed with the student’s view that it is difficult to feel comfortable in a school environment where such issues are not adequately addressed.
This year’s celebrations also included virtual conversations between a group of Young Changemakers and Government Ministers. Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman and Minister for Education Norma Foley joined teenagers who had recently participated in UNICEF Ireland’s youth activism course to discuss child rights issues relating to their briefs.
Meanwhile, in partnership with IOM, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration in Ireland, two further conversations were organised for young people who wanted to discuss children’s rights with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and Justice, Helen McEntee.
In 2019 Charles Gallagher, from County Donegal spent World Children’s Day shadowing the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. He began the day by attending a British Irish Council at Farmleigh House in Dublin, where he met the First Minister of Scotland Nichola Sturgeon.
Charles won UNICEF Ireland’s 2019 #KidsTakeOver competition after he submitted a video describing the changes he would make as leader in order to protect young people’s future.
During a private meeting with the Taoiseach, Charles addressed issues around young people’s well-being in school. Within the school environment, he wants to see greater supports for students in the areas of youth mental health, learning disabilities, and dealing with exam pressures. He wants young people right across the country to be given access to the same standardised supports and courses, regardless of where the young person lives. Charles also took the opportunity to raise concerns facing his generation around climate change.
Charles then met with the Minister for Health to again raise his concerns on the available supports to young people suffering from mental health concerns. He traveled back to government buildings to have further meetings with the Taoiseach’s special advisor on Climate and the Environment and the International Relations team.
In 2018, Aoife Murphy (15) from Westmeath brought the voice of young people around Ireland to the Taoiseach’s office on Monday November 19th. Aoife campaigned for Ireland to lower the voting age to 16 and spent the day with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar highlighting why young people deserve to have a say in decisions that affect their future. “Young people are facing great challenges like climate change, inequality and unemployment. We want to play our part in deciding who is making the decisions, that ultimately will have a far greater impact on our generation than theirs. It is our future – we deserve our say,” If politicians saw young people as a credible constituent, they would take their view in to consideration more. On the day, Aoife met with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone at the First 5 strategy launch.
In 2017, Joella Dhlamini (16) from Drogheda, Co. Louth spent World Children’s Day with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Joella and Mr. Varadkar attended a number of events across counties Meath and Dublin before returning to Leinster House for World Children’s Day celebrations. Mr. Varadkar heard how Joella would educate people about the impact of racism if she could change one thing about Ireland. Joella is originally from Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa but moved to Ireland in 2013 to escape violent crime, and to benefit from Ireland’s education system. Joella also spoke to Mr. Varadkar about issues of concern for young people in Ireland, as expressed to UNICEF Ireland, including disability rights, poverty, climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.
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