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Lonergan highlights teenage challenges

MOST lives are controlled more by chance than planning, according to former governor of Mountjoy John Lonergan, who is coming to Shannon to talk to young people about the changes and challenges they are about to face.

Mr Lonergan will be in Shannon on Friday afternoon, where he will speak to pupils graduating from St Patrick’s Comprehensive School. Speaking to The Clare Champion on Wednesday, he said it will be a wide-ranging talk about many aspects of life.
“I suppose generally it’ll be about the future and the things that are important in life. I’d like to remind them that they have already been very fortunate as they’ve been able to avail of facilities to develop their talents and to get a broad base of education that will stand to them.”
Young people all over the county are about to leave secondary school behind and he says that is a huge change. “Once you leave secondary school, the structures in life change. If you go on to third level it’s not as structured, no one is there to hold your hand, you have to take more responsibility for your own life and in many ways it’s when life starts.”
He says it is an important but potentially difficult time of life. “It’s a very traumatic time and a very significant time.
“There are a lot of milestones in life and one of the most significant is leaving secondary school. You leave the support of your family and many people move away from their own community. A lot of young people move out and find the structures they are used to are not there and a lot find that hard,” he added.
Mr Lonergan said he will talk about the impact of addiction, while he also said he wants to talk about “moments of madness” when people make bad judgements that alter the course of their lives.
“I was reading an article about Alan Quinlan yesterday when he was talking about his moment of madness, when he lost his place on the Lions tour and it’s something that haunts him still. That’s a good example of the impact of one bad judgement but it’s only involving sport. Moments of madness in other lives can be far more serious and lives can be destroyed.”
The importance of taking the right options will be addressed but he says people aren’t in full charge of their destiny anyway. “Life is something you are not always in control of and most lives are directed more by accident and chance than decisions.”
With the economy in the grip of a serious recession, young people may not be optimistic about their prospects but Mr Lonergan said some perspective is needed.
“I’d like to try and encourage them, while we are in recession. The reality is they could be a lot worse off. People in the ’40s and ’50s were far worse off and people in the 1800s at the time of the famine were far worse off again. Now they have a far better education and better skills than before and it’s a huge advantage.”
He said he finds it particularly sad that people are deprived of a third-level education because of a lack of finance, rather than a lack of academic ability.
The level of youth unemployment in Ireland is among the highest in Europe, with almost a quarter of those aged 17 to 25 out of work. He said while work is very important, there are steps that people can take to lessen the impact of joblessness.
“Work is so important and as well as money, there are a lot of other elements to it, like having somewhere to go to, increasing self-esteem and making a contribution. I was at an event recently and a person was talking about the new generation of white-faced young people. I was wondering what they were talking about afterwards and when I asked afterwards, they said it referred to young people who stay in bed all day and go out all night because they have no work.
“Sport can be great if people have a period of no work and Clare is a great county for it, particularly hurling and football. Sport is a great unifier and a great uplifter and it does fill a huge vacuum if you get involved in it. There’s also a lot of important voluntary work to do and it’s very rewarding and fulfilling. It’s also great for young people when they are filling out their CVs to show that they gave their time to it.”
Mr Lonergan said he believes a person’s approach to life and their values are crucial. “At the end of the day, I would see life as being in two sections, one is about making a living and the second element, which I would think is more important, is what I call ‘how to live’. It’s about decency and generosity and being supportive to people. I think that no matter where you are, these principles apply and are important when it comes to having a fulfilling life,” he concluded.


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