Last week, I had the honor of attending the National Youth Arts Showcase, where I witnessed the sheer level of young talent in this country. This event illustrated the importance of youth involvement in the arts – almost 400,000 young people participated in and benefitted from programs in the arts in the last year alone.
For young people, increased participation in arts and culture has been shown to benefit academic achievement, increase attendance, and improve overall classroom behaviour. Recent studies show that increased participation in artistic, cultural, and sporting activities helps to reduce delinquency and crime among young people as well.
I firmly believe every Irish young person has the right to participate in the cultural life of this country. Many people visit Ireland because of our rich cultural heritage – but it must exists for our citizens as well as our tourists.
For such a small population, our country has produced a disproportionate amount of award winning artists and performers.
It is crucial that we provide the Irish youth with as many opportunities to excel in the arts as possible. We need to ensure adequate funding, provisions, and planning so that many young people’s access to the arts will not be determined by their address. The importance of giving every young person access to the arts and opportunity to have positive childhood experiences cannot be underestimated.