Irish minister doesn’t think students should take holidays

July 28th, 2005 | by aobaoill |

A rather strange article in last Saturday’s Irish Times relayed a statement by Education Minister Mary Hanafin which condemned both foreign holidays by school students and the fact that many students own cars.
While I’m not one for advocating higher rates of car ownership, this is simply a particularly blatant example of the recent trend – particularly by the Irish government – of demonising young people. In relation to foreign holidays, where those who have recently completed exams head for group sun-holidays, Hanafin puts forward two sets of arguments. First, she mentions anecdotal reports of people being assaulted while on holidays and relays hearsay of hearsay of the risk of male rape:

Another young man told himself about how as soon as he got on the bus and heading to the accommodation from the airport, was told by the guide: ‘be careful lads, do not go sleeping on the beach, there is a lot of male rape here’.

Not to minimise the importance of such issues, but assault also takes place in Ireland, so without statistics or more detailed information this argument is meaningless. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, (and fitting in light of the demonisation theme) that Hanafin extends a second argument, implying that students should instead be contributing to society:

Peer pressure had built up, she said. But by contrast, 12 young people from Blackrock College this year decided that they would go but would work in a South African township, while another group of Loreto girls was heading to India.
So instead of the post-results’ holiday, they are going to give their time voluntarily to do something for others, she added.

Now, I applaud those who contribute to society (though the particular choice of examples – looking at those who help out third-world countries, rather than those addressing needs at home – seems part of a patronising superiority narrative) but I’m also a believer in Bread and Roses and dislike the implication that those who, after finishing tough exams take some time off, are guilty of something. As I say, it fits into a pattern of recent statements, such as those blaming all Ireland’s problems with rising alcohol intake on young people.

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