Cervical Cancer Vaccination Programme: Discussion with Dáil na nÓg Council.

I welcome the Minister of State with responsibility for youth affairs, Deputy Barry Andrews. I welcome Mr. Darragh Nolan, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Comhairle na nÓg, Ms Ciara Ahern, Tipperary North Riding Comhairle na nÓg, Mr. Adam Henson, Cork County Comhairle na nÓg, Ms Daisy Kate Delaney, Kildare Comhairle na nÓg, Ms Paula Kennedy, Cavan Comhairle na nÓg and Ms Emma Keane, Meath Comhairle na nÓg. You are all very welcome.

Before we begin, I draw delegates attention to the fact that while members of the committee have absolute privilege, the same privilege does not extend to witnesses appearing before it. I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House, or an official, by name or in such a way a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I believe a number of delegates wish to contribute. After their contributions we will have a question and answer session with members of the committee. I compliment the delegates on being here well in time. They could teach a number of us in the House a lesson as we do not always turn up in time for committees. I remind the delegates that we have two other deputations due before us this afternoon, so we are under some time constraint. We hope to conclude our business by approximately 4 p.m.

Mr. Adam Henson

I thank the committee for inviting us to address it today. It is great to have this opportunity. I am from Cork County Comhairle na nÓg. For anyone in doubt, Dáil na nÓg is the annual national youth parliament for young people aged 12 to 18. It is funded and overseen by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, OMCYA. The National Youth Council of Ireland is contracted to work with the OMCYA in organising Dáil na nÓg and some 200 delegates are elected to Dáil na nÓg through their local Comhairle na nÓg.

Each of the 34 Comhairlí na nÓg elects one delegate to become a member of the Dáil na nÓg council which meets once a month and works in two groups on the themes selected and voted on at Dáil na nÓg. The role of the councillors is to follow up on the recommendations from Dáil na nÓg and work to make changes for young people in these areas. The council represents the young people who took part in Dáil na nÓg and the young people in their comhairles. Members of the council do research and prepare arguments and make presentations to the policy-makers.

The two themes discussed at Dáil na nÓg 2009 were physical health and mental health. The top recommendations under physical health were that cervical cancer vaccines be made available free of charge to all 12 to 18-year olds and that all young people should have access to sex education appropriate to individual needs and that it should be comprehensive and varied in delivery. The recommendations under mental health were that the Government needs to implement a structure of social, personal and health education, SPHE course, for senior cycle students, incorporating positive mental health awareness.

Some of our work in the council was in separate groups and some together because of the strong links between SPHE and RSE.

Ms Ciara Ahern

I represent the north Tipperary Comhairle na nÓg. I work on cervical cancer. During the past year we researched cervical cancer. We met Dr. Shirley McQuade from the WellWoman centre. We learned that it is the second most common cause of death from cancer in young women in the EU. We learned that on average, six women die of cervical cancer each month in Ireland. We discovered the importance of the cervical cancer vaccine and of the cervical cancer screening programme. We met Dr. Tony Holohan, chief medical officer who spoke about cervical screening, safe sexual behaviour and the vaccine. He was shocked by the findings of our school surveys which showed that the health behaviour of school-going children, the HBSE survey, in Ireland excludes questions about the sexual behaviour of teenagers.

We met Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline, the companies manufacturing the cervical cancer vaccine. We asked them to provide the vaccine to the Government as cheaply as possible because of the recession. We welcome the decision to commence the vaccine programme announced by the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney in January. She met us the day following the announcement.

Ms Daisy Kate Delaney

I am from the Kildare Comhairle na nÓg. I will speak about our work on SPHE and RSE. We met with the following key decision-makers and stakeholders. The SPHE support service for teacher training in SPHE; the national council for curriculum and assessment, NCCA, education officer for SPHE; students from a Cork school where SPHE is being implemented; a researcher from NUIG who evaluates SPHE; the national co-ordinator for RSE; a principal officer in curriculum development in the Department of Education and Science; the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney; and the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs, Deputy Barry Andrews.

We learned that all schools must deliver SPHE from primary level up to third year. The evaluation showed that most schools are doing this but there are some issues that are not being addressed. SPHE is working where there is good teacher training and a lot of support from school principals and from the Department of Education and Science.

SPHE is different to other subjects for many reasons. Many teachers still find it difficult to deal with more sensitive issues in the classroom, especially those related to RSE. The evidence for the need for SPHE in senior cycle is clear when one looks at the many difficult issues faced by young people. Many reports and young people themselves say that SPHE can help to give young people the information and skills necessary to deal with important challenges.

For more than three years, the NCCA worked and developed a curriculum for the senior cycle SPHE. The proposal is that it would be implemented on a phased basis. We reviewed the curriculum and consider it to be excellent. We met students from the Cork school where it is being delivered. This proves it can be done in school if the management wish it. Despite everything, the Department of Education and Science does not believe that SPHE is a priority. We have also learned that RSE is part of SPHE up to third year. Schools are obliged to continue teaching RSE up to the end of sixth year. All schools should have an RSE policy.

The HBSE survey in Ireland does not include questions about the sexual behaviour of teenagers. I refer to the study of RSE implementation, relationships and sexuality, education and RSE, in the context of social, personal and health education 2007. Results from the teachers and principals surveyed show that only 60% of schools surveyed had an RSE policy; 30% of schools reported not teaching RSE lessons in third year; 43% in fifth year; and 48% in leaving certificate year. We were surprised that no young people were surveyed in this study. The percentage of factors preventing full implementation of RSE include overcrowded curriculum at 82%, discomfort of some teachers in the teaching of RSE at 71% and pressure of examination subjects at 67%.

Ms Paula Kennedy

I am from Cavan Comhairle na nÓg. We carried out surveys in our schools during May and early June on the implementation of RSE. The results were startling, indicating a very low level of effective RSE education. We then sent letters to a wide variety of organisations looking for their support for our work in getting SPHE senior cycle implemented. Over 40 letters have been received from organisations such as Barnardos and Amnesty International.

At our meetings with the chief medical officer and the Minister, we got agreement that questions about sexual behaviour will be included in the next HBSE study in Ireland. We wanted to highlight the difference between the findings of the study on RSE implementation 2007 and our own school surveys. We undertook a more extensive and detailed survey with young people. We worked with a researcher to develop a survey for young people on SPHE and RSE in schools. We then trained as social researchers. We conducted surveys in our schools.

Mr. Darragh Nolan

I am from the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Comhairle na nÓg. I will give the results of our survey on the implementation of SPHE and RSE in secondary schools in Ireland. This survey was written by a professional researcher and all the results were put together by professional statisticians.

We surveyed a total of 354 young people; 134 took the SPHE survey and 220 took the RSE survey. The SPHE survey covered 68 schools in 12 different counties and the RSE survey covered 94 schools in 13 counties. In the SPHE survey, 53% were male and 47% female and in the RSE survey, 42% were male and 58% female. The age bracket for the SPHE survey was between 12 and 16 years with 38% being 15; 25% being 14; 22% being 13; 10% being 16; and 5% being 12 years. The age bracket in the RSE survey was 15 to 18 years with 39% being 16; 29% being 17; 23% being 15; and 9% being 18 years. In the SPHE survey we learned that 88% of the students had SPHE classes in 2009; 84% said they had classes once a week; 95% said that SPHE classes lasted on average one class in duration; and 97% said that SPHE is timetabled as a class.

We asked them whether their school had an SPHE policy and 38% said "Yes", 8% said "No" and 54% did not know. Only 14% of those surveyed were involved in development of the SPHE policy in their school. We asked questions about the content of the SPHE syllabus and asked whether SPHE helped them develop personal and social skills. A total of 41% said "Yes"; 33% said "No" and 26% said they were unsure. We asked whether SPHE helped develop self-respect and self-confidence. A total of 48% said "Yes"; 32% said "No" and 20% said they were unsure. We asked whether SPHE helped them make good decisions and 60% said "Yes"; 26% said "No" and 14% were unsure. We asked whether SPHE gave them the chance to think and talk about interesting subjects and 56% said "Yes"; 29% said "No" and 15% were unsure.

In the RSE survey, only 26% of the people surveyed had an RSE class in 2009 and 74% had not had an RSE class. A total of 63% of people had never had an RSE class; 19% said their RSE classes were once a week; 8% said every few months; 7% said more than once a week; 2% said once every two months; and 1% said once a month.

Only 15% of the young people surveyed said that RSE was timetabled as a class and in 85% of cases, RSE was not timetabled. Sometimes RSE is timetabled in religion class, 50%; SPHE, 38%; science and biology, 9%; home economics, 1.5%; and life skills, 1.5%.

We were asked some questions about some guest speakers they had invited. Some 46% of the young people had guest speakers in talking about RSE. The main issues they discussed were contraception, sexually transmissible infections, crisis pregnancy and abstinence. The guest speakers came from medical, crisis pregnancy agencies and religious groups. Some 24% said that the guest speakers were very useful; 44% said useful; 19% said not very useful; and 13% said not at all useful. Some of the quotes were as follows: "God's input into sex"; "It was quite bad"; "They ridiculed homosexuality"; "A religious cult"; "They said not to have sex before marriage"; "Catholic youth workers who provided us with untrue facts and gave misguided information"; "It was solely the teaching of the Catholic Church"; and "Totally biased".

Some 61% said that learning RSE in school is very important; 30% said it was important; 5% said not very important; and 4% said not at all important. On the statement that "RSE classes cover all the important relationships and sexuality topics I need to know at this stage in my life", 25% strongly agreed; 37% agreed; 25% disagreed and 13% strongly disagreed.

We will be publishing and launching our survey results in coming months. It is the first time the views of young people have been collected on the subject. The results speak for themselves and we hope members of the committee will work with us to improve the lives of people nationwide.

Ms Emma Keane

I would like to outline what the joint committee can do about our issues. It should use its powers to influence the Minister for Education and Science to implement the SPHE programme at senior cycle. We want all-party support for the inclusion of sexual behaviour questions in the HBSE survey. We want the committee to press to have RSE to be taught separately from religion. Only 25% of students get any RSE in fifth and sixth year and this is mostly through religion class. We want elected representatives to ensure on a local level that young people are involved in developing SPHE and RSE policies in their schools; support and work with our Comhairlí na nÓg around the country; ensure we are adequately funded; and put teen issues on their parties' agendas.

I thank members for listening to our presentation and inviting us here today. We would now be happy to answer any questions they might have.

I thank all the speakers for attending this meeting. We have listened to what they have had to say. I could ask many questions particularly about the cervical cancer vaccine, an area in which I have a particular interest. We have been given to understand from the HSE that this programme will now not commence until September, which is a sore disappointment, because we felt it would come in during this school year for girls in first year now. I do not have any specific questions. They have outlined what they would like us to do. I will have no problem in doing that as I am sure will be the case for others.

I thank the delegation for the presentation. The Department of Education and Science will need to take the action on much of what has been requested. Has the Dáil na nÓg Council presented to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science and if not does it intend to do so? This committee should inform that committee of what we have heard if it has not already got it because clearly it will need to implement it.

It is shocking that so many senior students in post primary education are not getting relationship and sexuality education. Clearly it is vital that they have the opportunity to discuss these kinds of issues and be informed on them before they leave school. The survey may have answered some of the questions, including that teachers may be uncomfortable with the subject. I note that in the main schools brought in outsiders to deliver the content of at least part of the programme. What do the delegates feel that we, as public representatives as opposed to members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, should be contributing to this in order to ensure open debate and discussion for teenagers on these issues? They focus primarily on schools, but are there other ways for us to ensure these issues are properly debated given that they are so important for what happens in the rest of their lives?

I thank members of the Dáil na nÓg Council for the presentation. I have no difficulty in supporting the recommendations and requests they have made. I am very glad that the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs is present, because he can hear at first hand and save us lobbying him. Apart from that it is very worthwhile that he has come along. As a committee we appreciate that.

Dáil na nÓg Council and its 34 comhairlí have a very important role to play in promoting health. I shall confine myself to health as this is the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. I do not need to tell the delegates that health and life are determined by one's lifestyle. The habits we adopt when we are young we keep throughout our lives. I would mention a few areas, including diet. What we eat will determine future illness 75% of the time. Heart disease and certain cancers are linked into what we eat. When we are young it is important to identify the food that is good for us. Dáil na nÓg Council and its 34 comhairlí have a very important role to play in influencing their own age group as to the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle at this stage in their lives.

Exercise is very important. It is important to develop a liking for exercise and to ensure they continue exercising throughout their lives. They should give up smoking or better still never start smoking. Smoking is a major contributor. When I was Minister for Health 20 years ago I thought I might see the first generation of young people in Ireland who would never smoke. We have not seen it yet, but with the influence Dáil na nÓg has it might be able to get us to that stage. People should not start to drink before 18 and then should not abuse alcohol. They need to stay away from illegal drugs which do incredible damage. As a group, Dáil na nÓg has a great opportunity to take an active interest in health promotion.

We talk about the Department of Health and Children and this committee. However, what we really have is a committee and a Department of illness rather than a Department of health. Some 25% of all our expenditure is spent through the Department of Health and Children treating illness. If we could get to a stage of having a much healthier lifestyle, we could halve that budget and everyone would have more money in their pockets. I again thank the delegates for their presentation.

I may be able to help. I worked as a midwife in Clonmel hospital for many years. Each year four or five schoolgirls would come in to have babies that they did not set out to do. I started a programme in the schools. I went into the schools and asked young people to give me three questions related to sexual relationships, STIs or crisis pregnancies — any question relating to the RSE series. I took different age-appropriate measures from second year to fifth or sixth year. I have been doing those classes for approximately seven years. I do it in a very non-judgmental way because my job is not to moralise on people's behaviour but to give the best information. The information I use is all provided by the Health Service Executive and so has all been seen by people. While it is a good service, it might be more helpful. I have been asked questions at times that I have not understood but I am not going to say some of the things here because some members of the committee would not be able for it.

We are not so easily shocked.

Apart, perhaps, from the doctors they would be shocked. I regularly hold these classes throughout County Tipperary as well as in Waterford and south Kilkenny. It is age-appropriate. We cover issues such as self-esteem, STIs and life choices. It would be helpful if young people were given training on certain statistics such as the most common sexually transmitted infections. They should know what to do if a condom breaks, where to go and whom to contact, etc. It is important to develop strong relationships in order that children in these circumstances can speak to their parents. They need to understand it is not as bad as it might seem.

My suggestions and offers of help are informed by the work I have been doing for the last seven years. The delegates have made a genuine appeal. Some structure badly needs to be put in place within this service. We have a bit of craic during our classes, singing, etc. Paulo Nutini would be singing, not me personally. It would be good to train young people in this area in order that information would be provided by people of the same age in a non-partisan way. Simple information and facts should be provided without judgments being made. Young people in Clonmel, for example, should be told where they can go locally, receive information on the location of the nearest STI clinic and advice on what to do in order that they do not have to worry. It is a question of communication. If young people can talk to someone, they will appreciate that each of them is not the only person in this position. They did not invent it — we did.

I thank Senator Prendergast who was slightly more bashful than normal.

I do not think we invented it, it was invented by people long before us.

That was a little joke.

I welcome the delegation, particularly Ms Paula Kennedy who is from my constituency. I am delighted we are getting the gender balance right, at last. As I was a deputy principal before I entered the world of politics, I know all about the difficulties of getting teachers to teach SPHE. Many teachers are not happy to do so. When teachers come back to school in September and get their timetables, there is nothing worse for them than to find they have been given a first year or second year SPHE class. If one did not know one was going to have such a class, one might not know how to manage or deal with it. Teachers at second level, in particular, are focused on individual subjects. If one teaches maths and science, or English and a foreign language, that is one's focus. SPHE is much more difficult to teach because it brings one out of one's comfort zone. It needs a certain level of training and skills set. I appreciate and understand the difficulties in getting teachers to teach it. They need in-service training and the co-operation of management. Having said all that, SPHE is hugely important. It is the only class in the week in which one can be oneself, by talking about the things that directly affect pupils and making an input on important issues such as bullying, self-esteem and health promotion. One can have ownership of these classes and the direction they take. It is hugely important. I support the call for SPHE to be extended into the senior cycle. As matters stand, when one starts transition year after studying SPHE for three years, it is suddenly no more. We can examine this issue and make representations to the Minister on it.

I welcome the fact that the cervical cancer vaccination programme will be rolled out. With Deputies Lynch and Reilly, I attended the cervical cancer summit in Brussels. Although the experts at the forum spoke about the importance of the vaccine, they also mentioned the importance of screening. One without the other is no use, one must have both. Whenever youth leaders in schools and local areas talk about this subject, they should promote both aspects of it. Young people respond best when people of their own age advise them on best practice, rather than when older people like us tell them what they should and should not do, or can and cannot do. It is important for them to take a proactive role in this regard. If they pursue campaigns on issues such as health promotion and positive mental health, for example, in schools and youth clubs, they will have much more success than any of us. When they deal with people of their own age, they listen to them and hear what they have to say. They sometimes listen to us, but they do not necessarily hear exactly what we are saying. I have no difficulty in taking on board what the delegates have said. I wish them well.

I affirm what Deputy Conlon has said about the cancer summit we attended. While huge success has been achieved with the vaccine, ongoing screening is vitally important, too. The vaccine only deals with a very small element in terms of cancer; therefore, ongoing screening is important. When the delegates are making presentations on this issue, I emphasise that they should include this point. As everyone has said, young people are more likely to listen to people of their own age than to people like us.

I would like to comment on something I picked up on. We are impressed by Dáil na nÓg every year. We keep hearing young people are not interested in politics. In fact, our daily lives tell us that they are very interested in politics and politicians are very interested in them. We like to see them coming to the Oireachtas. That is why we make an effort to come and listen to what they have to say.

Mr. Nolan and Ms Keane made a connected point about the survey. They suggested the sexual relations programme should be presented separately from religious instruction. Will they expand on this? I again congratulate the delegation.

Mr. Darragh Nolan

Yes, I think——

I will allow another couple of members to speak before I invite the delegates to respond.

Mr. Darragh Nolan

I apologise.

I remind members that a vote has been called in the Seanad.

I welcome the deputation and the Minister of State, Deputy Andrews. Like other speakers, I endorse all the recommendations made. As politicians, we will do as much as we can to pursue them with the relevant Ministers. As another member said, that process will be easier because the Minister of State is in attendance. The Minister of Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, held the portfolio currently held by the Minister of State a few years ago. When he came to County Donegal before the last general election, he visited a number of National Youth Council of Ireland groups across the county and was astonished by the level of conversation in relation to sexual health. It was the first time he had such a level of interaction in that portfolio. It was the first time he had real interaction on it. It brought the importance of this issue home to him and me.

I note in today's edition of theIrish Independent that the Minister of State’s constituency colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Hanafin, has issued a statement on sexual health matters. She considers that such education is key to reducing the number of single mothers. It is a very interesting point.

The delegation's general recommendations are practical. As politicians, we meet youth groups from time to time. While one always likes to do what one can for them, sometimes there is little about the practicalities involved in some of their approaches. I have to say, however, that the delegates' recommendations are very sensible and welcome.

I welcome the delegates, some of whom I heard speak previously at the Joint Committee on Education and Science. Their presentation was very professional. I am interested to hear what they have to say about cervical screening and the vaccine. I compliment the group on the proactive stance it took when it asked the drug companies for a reduction in the price of the vaccine. As the delegates are aware, the original quotation to provide the vaccine was €16 million. As a result of lobbying by people like them, the cost was reduced to €3 million. They have to share some of the credit for what has happened. It made it possible for the Minister for Health and Children to announce the roll-out of the vaccination programme this year. The group has acted proactively in influencing Government policy on the practical roll-out of a programme that immediately affects this age cohort, on which it should be commended.

What is the delegation's policy on head shops? Would the group be able to adopt the same proactive stance on that topical issue? Health is a major issue for Dáil na nÓg. Given that the young people it represents are visiting head shops, which pose a serious risk to health, will the Dáil na nÓg council devise a policy on this issue to assist the Government in producing the correct response to it?

I congratulate and compliment Dáil na nÓg on raising issues which affect young people. It is important for politicians to listen to representatives of young people presenting their ideas on the issues affecting them. I extend my best wishes to Dáil na nÓg on its future work.

A plethora of issues were raised and questions asked. While time is limited, we will try to address all the points raised.

Mr. Darragh Nolan

Deputy O'Hanlon indicated we should lead from the front on healthy lifestyles. Many issues were raised when Dáil na nÓg met and we decided the best way to address them was through the implementation of a more effective social, personal and health education, SPHE, curriculum.

Senator Prendergast referred to relationship and sexual education, RSE. I am afraid I have forgotten the point she made.

She referred to responding to questions raised by groups of young people in an age appropriate manner.

She also offered to assist Dáil na nÓg given her considerable experience in the area of relationship and sexual education.

Mr. Darragh Nolan

Dáil na nÓg recognises that the lack of training in RSE is the main problem and more training is needed. Teachers are often uncomfortable discussing sex with young people.

Mr. Adam Henson

Deputy Conlon stated she is a former deputy principal. Many teachers are not happy teaching SPHE. We find that younger teachers are often given responsibility for teaching the subject because older teachers are reluctant to do so. Younger teachers who may wish to impress management often take the SPHE class. These teachers will then attend training in SPHE but once they achieve a more senior position in their schools, other young teachers are expected to teach SPHE. As a result, the money invested in their training is wasted.

Deputy Conlon also noted that SPHE is no longer provided from fourth year onwards. While relationship and sexual education is supposed to be provided in senior cycle to fifth and sixth years, it is not being delivered.

I referred to SPHE rather than RSE.

Mr. Adam Henson

Yes, Dáil na nÓg wants SPHE to be provided in senior cycle. A draft curriculum has been developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

Ms Ciara Ahern

I will address Deputy Kathleen Lynch's point on the influence of religion on the implementation of RSE in schools. I attend a Presentation Sisters convent and while I have been taught RSE, it was provided because of the work done by our group and as a result of my decision to speak to the teacher. For the final three weeks of last year, our teacher gave us presentations on numerous issues, including sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Although these were of assistance, religion and abstinence featured in each presentation and under each heading.

All of us agree that the dire need for education about contraception always comes to the surface. This issue seems to be ignored and religion appears to have too strong an influence on education in this area. This may be one of the reasons Ireland's rates of single motherhood, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are so high.

Ms Emma Keane

I emphasise the point Ms Ahern made in response to Deputy Kathleen Lynch. I attend a Convent of Mercy school. As a practising Catholic, I do not believe there is any place for religion in education, especially in SPHE and RSE. As is clear from the quotations from anonymous students cited in our survey, religion and the views of parents should not get in the way of our education. This is the reason we are pressing to have questions on sexual behaviour included in the HBSE survey.

Ms Daisy Kate Delaney

To add to the comments made by Ms Ahern and Ms Keane, the school I attend is multicultural and not every student participates in religion for senior cycle. I am one such student and if I required RSE in school, I would not be able to access it. It is not provided in religion or biology but is definitely needed because Ireland is changing culturally and in many other ways. One cannot live by religion. If one religion is taken into account, all of them will have to be taken into account. This issue needs to be addressed.

The issue of resources was raised and the support of the joint committee was sought in this regard. I am conscious that Dáil na nÓg engages with local authorities. What resources and funding are available to Dáil na nÓg? Are systems in place to engage with Oireachtas Members at county level?

Before our guests respond, I ask them to give their view on head shops.

Ms Emma Keane

We are elected to discuss only those issues raised in the Dáil na nÓg annual general meeting. This year, the issue discussed was physical and mental health, which precludes us from expressing an opinion on head jobs.

The committee is not the only body with procedures. Ms Keane gave a very good answer and will go a long way in politics.

Has Dáil na nÓg made a presentation to the Joint Committee on Education and Science? If not, does it intend to do so?

Ms Ciara Ahern

A different group from the Dáil na nÓg council made a presentation to the joint committee.

Did it make the same presentation?

Ms Ciara Ahern

It was similar.

I thank the joint committee for inviting me to this meeting and acknowledge the important role played by Dáil na nÓg. Not only does it have a right to have its voice heard on issues affecting young people, it also has a duty and responsibility, on behalf of those it represents, to take a tough stance on challenging me and other policy makers when it has the floor on occasions such as this. The delegation has discharged that responsibility very well today.

On behalf of the joint committee, I thank representatives of Dáil na nÓg for their forthright and concise presentation. I hope the joint committee will follow up on the points raised. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, will do likewise.

Sitting suspended at 4 p.m. and resumed at 4.02 p.m.