I thank the Minister of State for attending. I raise the issue of the current status and the perceived goals and aims of youth councils, specifically the youth council in Donegal which was one of the pilot zones. I declare an interest in that I am president of the youth and sport committee of the Council of Europe. Nationally and internationally, we spend a lot of time talking about getting young people involved in politics and getting them familiar with the democratic process. We initiated a lot of work in the Oireachtas through outreach programmes in schools and we initiated the youth council. The feedback and the annual reports have been very impressive. The issues prioritised by them were spot-on from any perspective. They have been a massive success.
Other counties do not have a youth council but the youth council in Donegal is under serious threat at the moment. Its work was suspended ten days ago because a co-ordinating post did not continue. Some light is visible at the end of the tunnel because the co-ordinator will remain in place until March. That is only a few months away, however, and from my perspective we need to give a clear signal if we are creating these posts. If they are to be in existence for the long term, there should be ring-fencing of the support in order that the posts can operate at the intended level. Brief respite has been granted in respect of this problem but I presume the official answer is that it is a matter for the county manager.
The Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs was at the helm of youth work and youth enthusiasm in respect of politics and in respect of a range of issues connected with youth. I am pleased, therefore, that he is responding to this matter. The signal we give is, ultimately, the signal that will be taken back as our true intention. If we say it is not our responsibility and is a matter for someone else, we will be abdicating our responsibility on this issue. The youth council can be tied into a larger problem in terms of staffing, and the county manager needs to deal with this with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
In driving the great work being done and giving confidence to the young people involved who come from many parts of Donegal and work together on the national scene, and I commend the people who have been doing this work until now, I would be distraught if I thought we were not in a position to provide for the survival of the youth council in Donegal beyond March. I hope the Minister of State can make an intervention to give effect to the long-term goal of this Government. When this was set up, it was not to be a short-term project but would one that would last from here on out. We need to give certainty to the youth council in Donegal and we need to expand the work being done there to ensure other youth councils coming on board are not faced with this serious instability. The word "suspension" was used last week and while we believe it is back in action for a while, that is insufficient and unacceptable.
I hope the Minister of State will have good news for me about the expansion and development of youth councils and the maintenance of staffing levels in order that they can continue their work. If we were to get rid of staff here in the same way as has happened in youth councils, this House would not be effective, just as a youth council is not effective when the co-ordinator does not have security of tenure.