Commissioned by the National Youth Council of Ireland and funded by Community Foundation Ireland, the research was carried out by a team from the Centre for Youth Research and Development in Maynooth University. Joe O’Brien TD, Minister of State for Community Development, Integration and Charities, attended on the evening and welcomed the report saying:
“I am delighted to support the launch of this important piece of work. Balbriggan is a vibrant and diverse town and we really need to listen to what our young people are saying and what they are asking for.
It is unfulfilled potential if we don’t take action and I will certainly do everything I can to support the recommendations of this report. As a local TD but also someone who has a long-term interest in integration and anti-racism I’m looking forward to supporting more action to deliver for young people in Balbriggan.” Minister Joe O’Brien
The research team in setting out the context for the research, noted the cultural diversity of Balbriggan with 29% of its population born outside of Ireland and 9% identifying as Black or Black Irish compared with 1% nationally (2022 census). They also stressed that it has the highest proportion of young people among Ireland’s large towns.
The title of the report – ‘Looking out for, looking after, looking to each other’ captured the sentiments of the young people who were interviewed and alludes to some of the positive aspects of their lives and experiences: the strong bonds of friendship, solidarity, caring and fun. But it also touches on the negative aspects: the need for ‘guardedness’ and solidarity, especially in the context of routine experiences of racism and discrimination, for both the young people and their families.
The research explored a range of reasons why youth work organisations have had limited success in the past in attracting and engaging Black young people but highlighted some positive recent developments, notably ones where Black young people and adults are taking the lead. The research suggests that community development approaches within the Black and Black Irish community have played a key role in addressing and – to some extent – ameliorating inequalities experienced by young people, for example in their relations with the Garda Síochána.
The report includes a number of recommendations, including the need for initiatives aimed at increasing the number of minority ethnic professionals and volunteers in youth work.
Anne Walsh from National Youth of Council of Ireland said the research report was: “An invitation to witness, to deeply listen, and to hear the voices of young people and community members and to respond to that with commitment and conviction. If it helps in any way to increase, improve, expand, and create relevant and appropriate youth work responses for all young minority ethnic people in Balbriggan it was a journey well taken. I thank all those who journeyed with us and wish the community, and especially the young people, well and NYCI looks forward to working with all youth work initiatives happening in Balbriggan.”