What do Children want in a future Galway city? Let’s find out!

As well-meaning adults we often talk about the needs of young people, about how we have to ensure that we build a better future for the next generation to inherit. In these unsettling times of the climate crisis, this has never been more openly stated nor more important.

But in designing a more sustainable tomorrow, do we actually give opportunities for listening to the thoughts and ideas of the children and young people? Surely they should have a right to have a say in creating their own future and help ensure a better, kinder, happier, more inclusive and eco-friendly city? Will the sincerity of young voices untainted by vested interests be key to opening our eyes on what a new Galway should look like? After all the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg from 2018 gave voice to a global movement of young people angry at a planet that had and is being abused by adults, which energised and embarrassed the general public to wake up to the urgent need for immediate action to save the planet, forcing many  policy makers and policical leaders to pay more than lip service to ensuring positive change.

On Tuesday next (June 22), children from over a dozen primary schools will come together in an online forum to put forward their opinions about what is important to them in a new Galway city.  Known as Glór na Óganach it is the brainchild of the inspirational Fionnghuala Geragthy, a teacher in Scoil Chaitríona Renmore, supported by the Galway Education Centre and teachers from participating schools as part of the multi-sectoral Galway National Park City initiative whose mission is to have a greener, bluer, healthier, safer, beautiful, sustainable, equitable, harmonious and wilder urban environment.

At a time when the Galway City Development Plan, which will provide a strategy for the city until 2029, is being debated by councillors and officials at City Hall, it is important that the voices of the children are heard. We so need to listen and to learn from the very people that will grow up, work and have families themselves in a city that this Plan will be the blueprint for until the end of the decade.

The June Forum will not be an end in itself. Rather it will be the beginning of a process of engaging with the younger generation. For a follow up Glór na Oganach will be held in November as part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival when a separate Youth (teenagers) Forum will also take place. A third in the series for both age groups will be organised for Spring 2022. Youth, arts and educational resource organisations as Galway Atlantiaquaria, Living Gardens, 126 Gallery, Galway Science & Technology Festival, Youth Work Galway Ireland, EcoEd4All, Explorers’ Education Programme, Coderdojo, and the Galway Children and Young People’s Services Committee, are coming together as champions of the Galway National Park City to help make this happen.

Glór na Óganach is unique, is pioneering, will be eclectic and probably a bit chaotic as it will be a learning experience for all involved. But it will be exciting and is already paying dividends. Schools are wonderful centres for implementing strategies to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and improve wellbeing as they build organic food gardens, bee-friendly havens and outdoor classrooms; promote recycling, renewable energies and rainwater harvesting. Whilst many of us talk they act. After all, it was a clarion call from teachers, parents and associated community campaigning groups that led to the transformation in the last few months of the streetscapes outside many schools by the municipal authorities in response to making a post-COVID city more cycle-friendly, more walking-friendly, more child-friendly (something that has been part of city strategy since 2002 but has not yet materialised). At a meeting of schools this week under the National Park City auspices, participants were putting forward wonderful common-sense practical proposals such as compiling a directory of local experts from business, state agencies, community and third level colleges to help schools with their environmental science and technology projects; and on the need for toilets and other vital infrastructure in all the main public parks and areas of natural heritage.

So let’s give children, youth and teachers seats at the top table and harness their progressive thinking.


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