How can I take part in my community as a young person?

Learn more about how to participate in your community as a young person in Ireland

Written by Children's Rights Alliance


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This factsheet is an extract from the publication Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People published by the Children’s Rights Alliance. It is reproduced here with their kind permission. Know Your Rights is a public information project designed to inform everyone, in plain language, of the rights and entitlements children have in Ireland and where to go when they are not respected.

As a young person you may want to take part in your community and have your voice heard but aren’t sure of the best way to go about it. Once you turn 18 you can vote in elections, but before then there are other ways that you can participate in society and have your opinions heard. 

What can I do to participate in my community?


You have the right to vote from the age of 18. If you are 18 or over and an Irish citizen, you can vote in all elections and referenda. If you live in Ireland, but are not an Irish citizen, you have the right to vote in some elections. To vote, you must make sure that your name is on the Electoral Register (list of people who can vote). You can get an application form to have your name placed on the Electoral Register from:

  • all local authorities
  • post offices
  • public libraries
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You must return your completed form to your local authority.

Comhairle na nÓg 

You can get involved in decision-making in your community. For example, Comhairle na nÓg has local youth councils that meet in every local authority area of the country. They give children and young people a chance to be involved in decision-making in matters that affect them.

Every two years, each Comhairle na nÓg sends representatives to Dáil na nÓg, the national parliament for children aged 12 to 18 years. This is a great opportunity to bring your concerns to politicians and other decision-makers.

Young Voices, EU Youth Dialogue 

The EU Youth Dialogue aims to bring the youth voice to EU policy-making. In Ireland the EU Youth Dialogue is delivered by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) through the Young Voices programme. For more information, see the NYCI website.

National Strategy 

The ‘National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making 2015-2020’ aims to make sure that children and young people have a voice in their everyday lives. It focuses on the places where children and young people are entitled to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. This includes settings in relation to:

  • community
  • education
  • health and well-being
  • legal settings

However, it is up to the different government departments and agencies to put it in place.

Hub na nÓg 

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has a Young People’s Participation Support Team. They have set up ‘Hub na nÓg’ (Youth Hub) in partnership with Foróige and Youth Work Ireland. It aims to give children and young people a voice in decision-making and has a number of resources which you may find helpful.

Am I allowed to hang around in my neighbourhood?

You have a right to hang out and use your community facilities. Everyone in the community, including adults, children and young people must act within the law. If people’s behaviour in the community is disruptive then you can complain about it. Similarly, other people have the right to complain if they find your behaviour disruptive.

If the Gardaí are called, they can ask you to move on. You have the right to be treated with respect by the Gardaí. If you are treated badly by the Gardaí, you can complain to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. 

Do I have a right to enter leisure facilities, shops and shopping centres?

Yes, you have the same right as an adult to enter shops, shopping centres, leisure facilities or any other public place. The owner or manager has the right to refuse to let you enter if they are concerned about your behaviour in the same way they can for adults. However, they cannot refuse to let you in on any of the discrimination grounds.

You can be refused entry to a pub based on your age. If you are under the age of 15 you will need to have a parent or guardian with you. If you are over 15 you don’t need a parent or guardian with you but you can only stay until 9pm. It is illegal to buy alcohol under the age of 18.

Take our Quiz on the minimum ages in Ireland

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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