Anywhere we travel, we see the high esteem in which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is held. People appreciate it is a full Cabinet portfolio and they respect the fine job she is doing despite the limited resources at the disposal of the Government. It is an important area to have designated within the Cabinet.
Recently, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending a Monasterevin youth action presentation on the need for youth services and facilities in the area. It was a compelling, convincing and credible presentation from the young people in Monasterevin, south Kildare. It was all the more poignant and important to me as I grew up in Monasterevin and went to school in St. Paul's secondary school. I was a member of the first ever leaving certificate class from St. Paul's secondary school. It was convincing to see young people taking ownership of, and responsibility for, the issue and carrying the campaign directly into the public domain and to public representatives and leaders in the community. They have the assistance of the principal of the school, Mr. Brian Bergin, and Paul Marron and other people involved in the Kildare youth services such as Mr. Pat Balfe. It was definitely an organic presentation. It was in the ownership of people like Jenny Byrne, who did a fine job hosting the evening, Patricia Downey, Moses Eribo and Savannah Muller to mention but a few of the people who took part in the presentation.
It was also a sad occasion, which is why I tabled a matter on the Adjournment, because the young people said their abiding memory of growing up in the town was one of boredom. That was disturbing and it is terrible to think that an entire generation of young people will go through the same experience, seeing themselves as having nothing to do, nowhere to go and nowhere to congregate or hang out. The town has grown in population fivefold but the level of facilities and amenities is lower than when I was growing up and going to school in the town. The CYMS hall where we used to play pool, snooker and darts and hang out is boarded up, the tennis courts are overgrown and the sports hall has been demolished. This is disturbing and is a retrograde step in a town with a DEIS school. I am appealing to the Minister of State to ensure towns like Monasterevin get their fair share of resources to enhance and improve badly-needed facilities. We cannot condemn and criticise young people hanging around the streets and street corners or gravitating towards pub culture when we do not provide proper facilities for them. The town is crying out for a youth café and a place where people can have ownership of a dedicated youth space.
I know how the youth café system has been a success around the country. In Portlaoise, I see the work of people like Joe Thompson and Serena Donovan coming to fruition in the success that is the Portlaoise youth café. Young people have ownership of the space, the facility and the amenity and it is thriving and prospering. It is doing good and it is a holistic and healthy experience for young people, who look out for and assist each other in constructive ways. I am not happy that Kildare, Laois and Offaly come off poorly per capita in terms of Government investment and funding for youth services, facilities and resources. In some cases, they receive ten times less than other counties and other centres. We must address that in the next round of funding for youth services and facilities. I hope we can redress the imbalance so that towns like Monasterevin can finally have the youth services, facilities and dedicated space for young people it requires and deserves. It will be money well spent.