An article by Mark Hilliard (Irish Times), who attended the “Young Ireland Forum” hosted on Pearse Street, Dublin on Friday 8th, April.

The melting pot. One hundred years and a short walk from where the 1916 Proclamation was unveiled, the next generation of Irish political thinkers gather.

It is a meeting of young minds in a country locked in political attrition. The partisan debate of the 1916 Clubs’ inaugural “Young Ireland Forum”, aptly hosted in Dublin’s Pearse Centre, aims to seek out “a common mindset regarding issues pertinent to the Republic”.

On Friday the youth wings of Labour, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Republican Sinn Féin converge in a small room to argue the intricacies of a future Ireland, her ambitions and governance.

They debate the existence of a “national question”, how to govern a united Ireland, and questions of democracy, sovereignty, neutrality and migration in an EU context.

There is the expected divergence of opinion, party lines and dogma. The speakers’ juxtapositions are worn in the sharp suits and woolly jumpers, the variety of accents and demeanours.

Opening on the theme of a national question, South Dublin Sinn Féin councillor Fintan Warfield says the marriage equality referendum offered an insight into Irish society.

However, “inequality, racism, sectarianism, homophobia and sexism continue to blight our society, and all of those form barriers to the achievement of a modern progressive Ireland”.

“As we reflect on society’s divisive elements, we build towards a prosperous and equal Ireland; a social imperative to campaign for unification becomes clear.”

Sense of imbalance

The Border, he says, creates a psychological division between us, a sense of imbalance.

Fianna Fáil speaker Gavin Curry looks at sovereignty in the EU context, and says the financial rewards reaped in exchange for any concessions has given Ireland “far greater freedom and real power to plot our own course”.

Labour’s Dave Riley concedes that membership of the EU diminishes Ireland’s sovereignty but argues that “in the 21st century there is no such thing as a fully sovereign nation”.

Alan Byrne of RSF says today’s Ireland is a long way from realising the ideals of the Rising. The British continue to occupy the North while the 26 counties are under the heel of the EU, a union of “imperialist elitism”.