TD strikes blow for jobless young people

Helen McEntee: Country's youngest female TD

The country’s youngest female TD has said the Government must address concerns about the mental health of unemployed young people, many of whom are turning to drink and drugs.

Helen McEntee said many problems stemmed from youth unemployment and were affecting people her own age. In an interview with the Irish Examiner to mark her first year as a TD, the 27-year-old spoke candidly about life at Leinster House, of her passion for politics but also of the challenges she faces in her job.

“Youth unemployment is still an issue and a lot of things that stem from that are starting to appear more as issues.

“People who were in work and suddenly aren’t working. Those who haven’t left the country. There’s other factors that come into it, their mental health. Their attitude to alcohol and drugs, to different things going on around their lives outside of work.

“I’m very much of the opinion that with young people, their mental health affects their attitude towards drugs and alcohol and sex as well.”

She said it was an issue that she personally wanted to address. “I’m 27 and I think it affects people my age. Everybody has seen how it affects people who aren’t working, people who aren’t sure where to go.”

The Meath East TD was elected on March 27 last year in a by-election held to replace her late father, Shane McEntee, who took his own life. She had worked for her father in Leinster House after doing a master’s in media, but nothing prepared her for being a TD.

Jobs and funding for constituents are top of her agenda. Despite promises from the Coalition to help young entrepreneurs, she said funds locally have already run out this year.

The former economics student suggests a bridging loans scheme, funded by the State, would help start-ups.

She says young people should be encouraged to work in the agriculture and agri-food sectors. “The image before was just milking cows or picking strawberries. Now it’s more mechanical, technical, scientific, it’s about food and marketing. They need to make seasonal work easier to access if people come off welfare.”

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