What has been the impact of two years of political impasse on the lives of young people in Northern Ireland?
Ahead of the return of power-sharing at Stormont, RTÉ News spoke to students at Queen’s University in Belfast.
Mental health, the cost-of-living crisis and NHS waiting lists all came up as concerns as they reflected on how the deadlock affected them.
“Being a young person in Northern Ireland at the minute is a mix of terrifying and uncertain. My hopes, now that things are hopefully getting going again, would be that we can pay the people in this country the money they need to survive.”
Beth is the president of the Students’ Union and she says she is seeing more and more students struggling.
“At this point, it’s real people’s lives that are being played with and real people’s lives that are at stake.”
Niamh said the last two years have been a time of “despair” but she is hopeful that issues like mental health and poverty “will be tackled in a meaningful way” when a government is formed.
“I do a lot of youth activism work and I just knew the same excuses would come up again, like ‘Oh, we can’t do that because government’s not in’.
“And young people are struggling. You’re maybe giving up on heat for a day so you can afford to eat.”
“I think the main issue is that, knowing we don’t have a functioning government means that you have no faith in anyone coming to help you.”
Tim is particularly concerned about NHS waiting lists and the waiting time for diagnoses for ADHD and Autism specifically.
“That’s something I’m struggling with. If I don’t get diagnosed and keep struggling without knowing how to treat it or how to control it, there’s no way to get better.”
“I love this place and I’m really proud to be from here and to see how much has changed in my lifetime, but there’s not an incentive to stay.”
Eimear says she is worried about what life after graduation will be like as rising rents and the cost of living is already causing so much strain. She hopes these issues will be tackled by government.
“When you’re worrying about eating, heating, sleeping, you don’t have time to enjoy the better things in life.”