The Right to have a say

The Right to have a say

Your rights under the UNCRC

UNCRC Article 12: It’s your right to express your views and for your views to be taken into account when decisions are being made that affect you.

Your rights under Irish Law:

1. Under Article 42A in the Irish Constitution, it’s your right that courts need to hear and take account of a your views in family law and care cases.

2. Under different articles in the Irish Constitution, it’s your right, if you’re an Irish citizen, to vote in elections when you are 18 years old

3. Under the Education Act 1998, it’s your right to form a student council in secondary school and to receive support from your school in doing so.

4. Under the Child Care Act 1991 and the Children’s First Act 2015, it’s your right that your wishes are taken into account when decisions are made about your care.

Do you know?

  • The child population of Ireland increased by nearly 1/5 between 2006 and 2016. There are now 1,220,907 children living in Ireland. This is more than a quarter of Ireland’s population. (State of the Nation 2016)
  • The National Youth Council of Ireland has a campaign that gives the reasons why young people should be allowed to vote at 16 years.
  • In 2016, the UN committee recommended that  Ireland carry out a national referendum on lowering the voting age to 16 years.
  • The Irish Secondary-Level Students Union gives support to student councils and is also a platform for students to express their views on issues about education.
  • In 2015, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) published Ireland’s first National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making. The goal of this strategy is to make sure that children and young people have a voice in decisions made in their local communities, in education, in healthcare, and in the courts and the legal system.
  • Ireland is the only country in Europe to have a national strategy that is dedicated to children and young people’s participation in decision making.
  • According to research published by the DCYA in 2015, children and young people think  their  home is the place where they are most supported to have a voice in their daily lives. They said that they have the most amount of say about what friends they have, as well as decisions about food and clothes.
  • There are youth groups called Comhairle na nOg in 31 different local authorities all over Ireland. They meet and get involved in the development of local services and policies. Their report in 2015 focused on young people having a stronger say in their education.
  • In 2016, the DCYA Young Voices report  asked young people how they could feel included more in society. Some young people said that “having a say and being included in decision making” would help them feel included.
  • In 2014, the percentage of children aged 10-17 who participate in making the school rules increased by 3% over 4 years. The HSBC survey explained that in 2010 32.6% of young people participated in school rules and in 2014, this rose to 35.5%.

Hear your right – read by Ava Tinsley


As Gaelige

Tá sé de cheart agat tuairimí a bheith agat, agus go n-éistfeadh daoine fásta leis na tuairimí sin agus go mbeidís dáiríre faoi do thuairimí.

Éist le do chearta – léite ag Caoimhe Ní Scolaí


What children and young people are saying

  • “Everyone can express themselves, but the right to people to actually pay attention to that I think, is definitely important. The right to be heard, the right for your opinions to be taken seriously is a problem I think that a lot of children face.” – Sam (14)

    “My mum and my teacher, they listen to me, I can say what I want as long as it’s appropriate, I can express myself and it’s very good that they listen to me” – Sorcha (11)

    “I really support the idea of making us have a chance for our voices to be heard. If it was not for this nobody can understand when they see children walking down the roads of life and the difficulties that they face or the kind of lifestyles they have lived. A voice of a child being heard is important because it will shape up the long walk to success and it will create the good leaders of tomorrow.” – 17 year old girl

    “We don’t have enough say in our rights.” – 13 year old girl

    “We think the right to express our own opinions and make our own decisions is important because everyone wants to be heard and doesn’t want people talking for them.” – Group of 16 and 17 year old girls

    “Children and young people should have the right to present their views to the Dáil. TDs don’t understand the views of young people.” – Group of 14 year old boys, Dublin

    “Children can do lots of things to help each other; take part in a group like a student council, cooperate, be kind, respect each other, give everyone a chance to take part and say what they think, try to understand each other, have fun together in the group” – Group of 8-13 year old girls and boys, Dublin

  • Animation about children’s and young people’s views on dealing with bullying schools

    Children and young people share their views on children’s participation rights

Find out more

  • Dail na nÓg – Dail na nÓg is the national youth parliament of Ireland. There are also 34 Comhairle na nÓg around the country, you can find out more here.
  • Future Voices- Future Voices works to empower young people in ways that give a voice to the voiceless
  • ISSU – The Irish Second-Level Students Union (ISSU) is the national umbrella body for school Student Councils
  • GAA – Find out what the GAA is doing to hear the opinions of young people.
  • Picture Your Rights – In 2015, children and young people worked with the Children’s Rights Alliance and Unicef to make a report for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about important issues for children in Ireland.
  • Life as a Young Person in Ireland – In 2011, over 65,000 children and young people shared their views about living in Ireland with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Explore More: Resources for Teachers and Educators

  • UNICEF Ireland – ‘Being Involved’. Discussion points and images to support children and young people to explore the extent to which their right to be heard is being fulfilled. In Picture Your Rights (2015), p.3.
  • National Youth Council of Ireland et al – ‘You have the Right to Remain Silent’. An activity for young people aged 13 years and over to explore children and young people’s right to be heard. In Setting Our Sights on Rights (2014), pp.33-34.
  • UNICEF UK – ‘Misbah’s Choice’ and ‘Have Your Say’. Two activities for young people (11 to 16 years) to explore issues relating to children’s right to be heard when decisions are being made that affect them. In Thinking Rights. What happens when rights seem to conflict? (2009), pp.51-56 and pp.70-74 respectively.
  • NYCI – ‘Fantastic Four’. An activity for children aged 6 years and over to explore how they can participate in tackling global poverty. In The Sustainable Development Goals and Youth Resource Pack (2015), pp.14-16.