What it is like to be a seventeen year old in the Ireland of today

Italian translation, Portuguese translation, French translation, German translation

By CBS Wexford students, IRELAND, 1997

Contribution to the EDUVINET "Living Conditions of EU Citizen" subject

By Brian Foy, Dublin / IRELAND

The Ireland of today is slowly beginning to improve as far as sports and music go. Ireland is producing more and more musical and sporting talent. The country is attracting people from all over the world who are coming in search of homes, holidays and jobs. Ireland is becoming very modernised and is becoming better recognised as one of Europe's leading countries.

Being seventeen in Ireland is not that bad. The main problem would be school and examinations. Ireland's State examinations are very hard and in the days and months leading up to them great pressure is placed on the students. I think that all of the pressure put on the students sitting these examinations is very unnecessary, as all it does is worry and confuse students. I'm not saying that the examinations are not very important, because they are due to the fact that most interviews will centre around the results, but at the end of the day when the examinations are over life still goes on.

Being seventeen you come to a crossroads which determines a great deal of your future. You have several decisions to make regarding colleges, careers and also your personal life. I find Ireland very limited as far career opportunities go. Ireland is a small country with a huge unemployment problem. If you can get a job you take it, never mind being able to choose your job. Ireland has no jobs for people with unique qualifications because any jobs there are taken.

When you are seventeen you need plenty of money for examination fees, application fees, let alone a social life, hobbies and clothes. The only part-time jobs available at this age are bar work, shelf stacking and other low-paid work. Employers take advantage of you because of the situation you are in. Ireland is not bad when you are not in school. It has plenty of things to offer for my age group.

Ireland is a big footballing country and has plenty of football clubs for you to join if that is your hobby. One thing that bothers me about the Ireland of today is the way that some highly talented people do not get a chance to prove their talents. For example, Ireland has some excellent footballers of all ages but because of the few places in the professional ranks these people will never get a chance and will let their talent slip away. That is one thing which scares me.

I would like to pursue a career in film making, both producing and directing and I know for a fact I might never get the chance because of the number of people who want the same thing and because it is so difficult to get into the business. Ireland is attracting film makers from all over the world and is full of celebraties, so maybe with the growth of the movie industry in this country I might get a chance yet!

To be seventeen in Ireland has its advantages and diadvantages. I cannot plan a decent future until after my examinations but as soon as they are over.... the sky is the limit and who knows, maybe someday I'll win an oscar.


By Marc Tierney, Wexford / IRELAND

Generally speaking, we live in a state that has one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. We have a falling rate of unemployment. Of course this is a nation-wide observation. There are areas within our state that are dogged by high unemployment and poor housing standards - a major problem for our country to deal with and a very urgent problem that needs our urgent attention.

It's true to say that we, in the south, are experiencing the 'feel good' factor in more senses than just the monetary one. Our Northern neighbours do not have much to 'feel good' about. Their problems were really only brought to my attention when I did an interview recently with a journalist from a Northern Irish Radio station on our local station, 'South East Radio'. He spoke of the initiatives taken by the young people to rebuild and build upon the links between the two communities, Nationalist and Unionist. But, although these projects continue the underlying threat of a return to 'full scale war' (what we are experiencing now is a series of violent acts!) was one of the greatest fears of all, particularly the young whom he commented on as being 'helpless' in the current situation.

I suppose one of the best things about living in the Republic is that we do not have to 'watch over our shoulder' continually. However we cannot overlook the fact that Ireland has its problems. Many problems we share with our European neighbours - drugs and the crime that seems to always accompany drugs. Our society is no longer shocked by violent acts, it seems that we are adapting to violence.

Although I'm not anti-church I do believe the Catholic Church, as the dominant religion wields too much control over political and non-political affairs. It has a huge role in the running of schools, which although good in many respects, can lead us to have a very narrow minded attitude such as 'no divorce', 'no abortion'. While I'm not really condoning the latter, the people in our state should be allowed to choose for themselves without having to listen totally to the Catholic Church.


By Conor Buggy, Wexford / IRELAND

At this stage all my life seems to be centred on my future. School helps me to grow and expand for the future, but it also restricts me in my freedom. This restriction sometimes imposes an awful pressure on me. Teenagers are often thought of as carefree and optimistic. I know in Ireland many of us have too much pressure put on us to do well in the future. We are the country's future.

Constructing relationships is often hard, we must start a relationship at a young age to fit in whether or not we want to. This is another pressure, another restriction.

But life in Ireland is not all bad, we are at the best age to enjoy our country and our way of life.


By Lee Kelly, Wexford / IRELAND

I cannot speak for all young people growing up in Ireland, only for myself and my friends. Being on the verge of final examinations and at the bridge in life between schooldays and the life I have to choose is hard, often stressful. A deep frown seems to exist on my forehead all the time now. Always the thought of ... what now? ... what next? ... jutting up to cloud the worries and the way I feel about my life.

It's not all doom and gloom. Life in this age opens up many opportunities. It seems to drag out of me all kinds of feelings and emotions. That's good for me. It's a way of using my talents and imagination and feeling content in doing so. The fact that the world is changing before my eyes is fascinating and frightening. Man can think for himself and is conscious of his surroundings. But man is realising too late what he is doing wrong in the world.

I feel cheated in a society that can live on racism, destruction, greed and money. Power controls everything. The old saying 'only the strong survive' is true. My generation does not have power. We have to work hard, suffer and strive to reach these positions of influence. But do we want to? Do I want to live my life by the slogan 'survival of the fittest'? To wipe the floor with the less fortunate or those of less ability?

The exams facing me are my ticket to a better life. But do I want this better life? It does not always seem so enticing.


By J. Smith, Wexford / IRELAND

Ireland represents to many outsiders a magical, cultural and even backward land of green pastures, stone walls surrounding the villages and a general laid back attitude toward life. Blind is the man who can visit Ireland and relate this misleading information to his fellow countrymen. Perhaps this image may have held some truth in the last century but today unfortunately we have a different state of affairs.


By P. Murphy, Wexford / IRELAND

Personally, lots of pressure. Exams, college choices, money, ... the list goes on. The rest of my life depends on this year and I haven't a clue where it's going, except that what effort I've made will finish in June, and nothing more can be done (try telling that to the family!)

Legally I'm let vote, can drink and could have sex for the last two years. It doesn't really bother me. I've been doing one for ages anyway, another I could be doing and the other doesn't bother me in the least at this point - maybe one day I'll accept the 'enormous responsibilities' that go with it.

Professionally I work a mere three and a half hours per week to subsidise my hobbies and leisure (I may add teachers insist it's important to balance curricular studies with a social life, but they detest the idea of a job. However our parents are not made of money!!!)

Socially, excellent! Sports and the usual one night out (the night I have off) establishes this 'necessary balance'. Peer pressure to smoke or do drugs will always be there for somebody my age, yet by this stage you will have become practically used to it. If you want to, you do; if not, don't. I don't.
And that's about it.


By Lorcan Hayes, Wexford / IRELAND

What it is to be 17 in Wexford in 1997. What it is to be 17 anywhere, I expect it is basically the same, especially in our little Ireland. For an average 17 year old in Wexford, the main topic of conversation is the Leaving Cert.. I don't think I need say anything about it, there's nothing I could say that hasn't already been said.

The amount of pressure heaped on Leaving Cert students is something I could never understand - until now. The pressure is shared equally among the sexes, as there's plenty for everyone. I'm afraid this area of education controls your life for the best part of a year and will, 99% of the time, determine what you will do for the rest of your life.


By Paul Corrigan, Wexford / IRELAND

Your school days are supposed to be the best days of your life, but I don't know - going to school is tough. You're always under pressure, from parents, teachers and friends. There are many distractions from school life - sport, pastimes, clubs, cinemas, disco's, the list goes on.

For a person of seventeen or eighteen there is no time for relaxation. The week is like a set timetable and unless you keep to it you're sure to miss something. Monday to Friday is school, Friday nights is when you meet your friends outside the school atmosphere, the topic of conversation could be anything from girls to your pet goldfish. Saturday morning is set aside for training. Then it's back home to study a little before an exciting night out on the town.

Sunday morning is slow and dreary - a couple of glasses of water and a few Dispirins. Sunday afternoon is set aside for more studying and then maybe on Sunday night a couple of games of snooker might be played at the local snooker hall. Usually the topic of conversation is the mishaps of the night before. Life's not so bad really when you think about it.


By Kevin O'Riordan, Wexford / IRELAND

I am an eighteen year old middleclass Irish man. That I class myself as a man does not mean others feel obliged to. I will always be a little boy in my parents' eyes. Particularly in those of my mother. My father has grown accustomed to the idea and is nonplussed by my growing up. He possibly sees me as the little bit of him he will grace the world with when he is gone, quite an egotistical attitude!

'The apple does not fall very far from the tree' This old proverb certainly applies to me. Why should this be? I am my own person. If I do not share the interests and abilities of my parents - my father in particular as I am male - am I to be the black sheep of my family? In the conscious minds of my parents perhaps not. They will 'accept me' for who I am but it's very much au contraire in regard to their subconsciousness. Their inbred hopes and ambitions for me, motivated purely out of genuine love, provide a conflict of emotions for them and of course for myself. This gives rise to pressure, exam pressure, sporting pressure, all so we can emulate those fantastic feats of our parents.

Pressure in Irish life is rife. And at present it is the fulcrum on which my daily life balances.

The source of the pressure is this insurmountable mountain of information we are obliged to ingest in order to gain optimum results, results which will shape the succeeding fifty years of our lives. On the basis of these results we will go to college, to study a course we like. Therein lies the problem. How can an eighteen year old possibly know the course or eventual career he will like, enjoy or excel in? Of course we can get career guided. But this is merely a third party surmising on the basis of pure tests what we will be good at. So what should we do? Should we choose a career we might be good at according to a guidance counsellor, or a course we think we might like?

Let's face it, very often the course we like is the course that our well meaning but idealistic parents would like for us, thereby living up to their inevitably fading aspirations.

Pressure occurs when every waking and sleeping thought concerns something. For me that something is the Leaving Certificate exam. And at present in my life I find it impossible, a difficult task at best, to write about anything else which concerns me, an eighteen year old middleclass Irishman in Ireland today.

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