Dan Boyle: The Kids Are Alright


From top: Young climate change activists protest in Dublin city centre last May; Dan Boyle

I was sent a text this week from a young environmental activist. He wanted to let me know that he had read my book on The Green Party’s experience in government, ‘Without Power or Glory‘, and that he found it illuminating.

I thought it indicative of the many young activists now coming to the fore. For them it isn’t enough to respond to the emotional triggers that permeate the environmental debate. For them to be able to debate with passion it is necessary to become sufficiently informed.

This is so different from the prevailing practice of those two or three times their age. Those with a lazier intellectual disposition, content with static commentary often wrong in context or historical accuracy.

We are beginining to see a generation where the cliche of youth being wasted on the young, may no longer apply.

While we should encourage young people to live and enjoy life, with the fecklessness and recklessness that adolescence was created for, the emergence of a cohort of serious young people is no bad thing.

Of course no generation speaks in a single voice. The best we can hope for is that a preponderance of those, of this generation, match their concerns with ever probing challenges towards those whose failings have delivered such a threadbare legacy.

I identify strongly with these young people. I was first elected a councillor when I was twenty eight years of age. But that was a journey that had only started from my mid twenties.

I greatly enjoyed my rock and roll years that preceded my becoming a conscientious bore.

Where I have less patience is for those who not choose not only to act against type prematurely, but also choose to think old before their time; absorbing everything negative from the ancien régime.

Without having to resort to metaphor or analogy just think Young Fine Gael.

Maybe just maybe, with the very nature of leadership being redefined, we may finally have a generation that can get ahead without having to ape all that has been awful before them.

Especially encouraging to see is the number of young women coming to the fore as activist leaders. It has probably has something to do with the Greta Thunberg effect.

But only slightly. In Ireland a more likely effect, for young women at least, would have been the expectations raised by the Same Sex Marriage and the Abortion referendums. Together these events have helped politicise a generation.

They too will get it wrong. We can only hope that, in the Beckett sense, they will fail better.

It’s almost guaranteed that they can’t get to do any worse, and we can’t afford them to do otherwise.

If I’m truly honest I should point out to them that I am their natural enemy, or at least characteristic of it. Middle aged and male, deeply in fear of having our World about us changed, without us.

Prepared to strike out at those challenging our outdated certainties. Doing so in a far more childish manner than those whose early maturity frightens the hell out of us.

And proper order too. The smugness and arrogance of my generation needs to be set aside by those whose life choices and chances do not need to be further compromised by our failings.

I only hope they can do so efficiently but not so impetuously.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


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12 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: The Kids Are Alright

  1. Doris

    Interestingly Dan, my theory is that politicisation is not coming from the bottom up among that generation but is occurring because of your generation recruiting young people as they make better faces for the causes they support (not suggesting you’re doing that in your article, but perhaps you welcome it because you know subconsciously it’s of benefit to your own cause).

    I’m very sceptical of Greta Thurnberg. So many of this new generation of politicos are rich or benefit from State funding. No one supported by the current interest group will ever make a substantial difference. It’s just optics.

    Most young people I know don’t have the time for politics, they are just trying to keep their head above water in work and with their rent. Students work 2 jobs now as well as college, or else they commute for hours. When they get jobs they are trying to save for a mortgage, juggle childcare, look after parents etc. I

  2. postmanpat

    Kids today have no future. They need to know they are merely the future of heartless corporations their parent indoctrinated them into since birth and they need to stop. It’s the start of the school year. All students starting with primary school need to just stop going. I mean worldwide. stop participating in the system that’s designed to steal from them. Stay home, until the world governments (if they even exist in any real way outside of big money) do something to guarantee fair and equitable treatment. It could take years. It will be chaos. But the world’s problems will be forced to the surface. All the global debt swirling around from country to country, money that doesn’t exist except in our heads? Every country is in debt? How? Fracking every last drop of natural gas and oil we don’t need but pretend we do because we need the consumers to keep the market going to keep the economy stable? All that pollution to keep some boomers pension account going? Overpopulation needed to keep rich people rich? It’s nonsense. My child will supposedly start junior infants next year. I honestly don’t see the point. Money to Folens publishers for 13 years and Apple for the ipads that are supposed to replace books but won’t because.. profits? To learn noting you can’t learn at home. Or to get a degree so you can be a slave to student debt and can’t breathe because the oxygen isn’t there? Forced into whatever ethos the school happens to be, be it religion, irish speaking, tolerant of soccer even on the GAA pitch? heavily pro GAA ? majority culcie teachers so support of Dubs is verboten even in a Dublin school (Rathfarnham Sat Mary’s BNS 1980’s) ? If you’re even into sport to begin with. Institutionalised exclusion, forced into the company of 30 kids year after year wither you like them or not? Narky teachers. Then secondary school where you make uninformed decisions to apply for college course that sort of suits your interests/ability but not really, at an age you really shouldn’t be making decisions which will affect your entire future. Wind up working whatever job pays the bills, until retirement or cancer before retirement or cancer right after? Every effort to protect the environment get ridiculed because it’s always bad for business, and business always wins. And we are told its good for job creation (corporate profits) and for the good of the hard worker (corporate profits). the economy is doing well!! (corporate profits). Corporations force governments worldwide to privatise profits and socialise losses. Time and time again. I could go on all day. But my point is this: I have a daughter. 3 nephews, 1 niece and another nephew /niece on the way, My wife has 3 nephews and one niece on her side. My cousins have a rake of kids, all small kids and tweens. And I 100 % believe none of them have a future. They are in the rigged game, and the only way to win is not to play. When workers justifiably strike, and it effects the public negatively the public generally adapts and supports the workers anyway. There is no point in kids going to school in the current system. Parent need to realise this. And if any of you starts moaning about reading and writing , Well if you can’t teach your own offspring how to read and write yourself, then you shouldn’t have kids in the first place.

    1. Cathal

      Future is what you make it for yourself ,we have a better living than our parents and our kids will have it better than us. Getting all depressed about what ifs and could have beens is pointless, live your life don’t spend your life worrying about what could have been

      1. postmanpat

        Our parents mortgage was 20 years, one working parent on a working class income for a solid built roof over the family’s head and siring 3 or 4 kids. Now 40 years , 2 professional job income or else its a pyrite shoebox flat (called an apartment) built by sociopaths to get you on de “ladder” yeah, real progress.

      1. postmanpat

        No time for bedtime stories kid. You have to get up early to learn how to snare wild bankers to skin and smoke preserve to get through the next nuclear winter. Ill leave the Geiger counter on as a night light.

  3. eoin

    Fair play to you Dan for spotting the wee Swede’s book is still high in the book charts and then promoting your very own “Faster than the speed of Love”.

    1. Cathal

      Thunberg is a manufactured product, the Westlife of political lobbying, there is some Swedish version of Boyle pulling the strings and pocketing the proceeds. Environment is the new Cash cow for the usual suspects, find something and monetise it.

        1. Doris

          Millie, the practice of people currently in power using their children and the children of their friends to promote ‘new’ ideas and therefore create the impression of change is empirically ascertainable by any student of history… particularly 20th century history.

          Before then, it could be explained on the basis that these change-makers were the only ones educated enough to effect change – something no longer a justification with universal education in place.

          Greta would not be receiving this coverage if she were an ordinary Swedish child from a working class Stockholm suburb. The media promotes those whom they know.

          Just look at the people quoted as ‘ordinary people’ in newspaper articles about ‘ordinary living’ – the same names come up again and again, usually friends or relatives of the journalist writing. Isn’t this counter-productive to both an accurate story and the democracy the newspapers assert?

          1. millie vanilly strikes again

            Thanks for the very interesting answer Doris.

            It’s certainly food for thought, but it’s also merely conjecture. What proof is there, aside from the fact that it has happened in other instances in the media? Because it has happened before doesn’t follow that it definitely is the case here.

            And I’m not saying it’s true or untrue. But I do think it’s very unfair to make that kind of claim about a child without proof to back it up.

          2. Doris

            Millie, Greta’s mother is a very well known singer who represented Sweden in the Eurovision; her father is an actor and a relative of the scientist who discovered climate change, this is in a memoir about her and her family.


            There are numerous other instances, but let’s take one not too close to home to tread on the toes of the Irish set: Hollywood and the rock music industry in the 1960s as detailed in Dave McGowan’s book on Laurel Canyon – Weird Scenes in the Canyon.

            Too many of the rock stars and movie stars who came to prominence in the 1960s were connected to American persons of political power to make it believable that they just ended up there by skill or luck. Few had happy lives thereafter – persons used in this way generally don’t. Self-determination is the only real guarantee of happiness.

            We’ll see what happens with Greta. I hope she gets to pursue her own path.

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