Definition of Youth

Ireland’s youth policy frame­work 2014-2020 defines a young person as “any person between the ages of 15 and 24 years", and a child as anyone under the age of 18.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 18
  • ++
  • Female
  • 18
  • 18
  • ++

  • In special circumstances, marriage under the age of 18 years is permitted with court obtained approval. Civil unions/partnerships legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA, Citizens Information.

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Between 10-12 years, children may only be charged with murder, manslaughter, rape or aggravated sexual assault. Source:  Criminal Justice Act
Children Act

Majority Age


The age of majority is also conferred upon marriage. Source: The Age of Majority Act (1985)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • -- Male (15-24) %
  • -- Female (15-24) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 98.75%Male %
  • 99.57% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • -- Male (13-15) %
  • -- Female (13-15) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Ireland has a youth policy frame­work, ‘Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures,’ covering 2014–2020.

The youth policy frame­work 2014-2020 states:

Our vision is for Ireland to be one of the best small countries in the world in which to grow up and raise a family, and where the rights of all children and young people are respected, protected and fulfilled; where their voices are heard and where they are supported to realise their maximum potential now and in the future.
The policy has five national outcomes in relation to young people:
  1. Active and healthy, with positive physical and mental well-being.
  2. Achieving their full potential in all areas of learning and development.
  3. Safe and protected from harm.
  4. Economic security and opportunity.
  5. Connected, respected and contributing to their world.
The foreword to the frame­work says the new ‘Child and Family Agency’ will improve youth well-being.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Department for Children and Youth Affairs was created in June 2011 to consolidate a range of functions previously undertaken taken by various other Ministries. It focuses on policies and programmes relating to,
early childhood care and education, youth justice, child welfare and protection, children and young people's participation, research on children and young people, youth work and cross-cutting initiatives for children.
A new Child and Family Agency established in 2014 is responsible for the implementation of the national youth policy frame­work.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) was established in 1967, and is an umbrella organisation for 45 voluntary youth organisations in Ireland. Its mission is to use “its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people.” Its advocacy work focuses topics including child protection, youth unemployment, participation, youth work and education. Additionally, it supports volunteering opportunities, youth work quality standards, funding, and youth work development. The NYCI is “recognised in legislation through the Youth Work Act 2001.”

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
449.0 million
USD 617.7 million
According to the 15th October 2013 press release, the 2014 budget for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs was EUR 449.0 million (USD 617.7 million). The press release notes that this “represents an increase of almost €15 million over its 2013 allocation and consists of €414 million in current expenditure and €35 million in capital expenditure.” According to the World Bank, Ireland spent 9.80% of its government expenditure and 6.41% of its GDP on education provision in 2010.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed May 2014).

Additional Background

The National Youth Council of Ireland has noted concerns about the impact on youth of the recent financial crash and government response. In its 2014 pre-budget submission, NYCI points to the potential impact of another austerity budget on children and youth:
In May 2013 the National Economic and Social Council report stated that “young people are hardest hit by the crisis.” Since 2008, children and young people in Ireland have endured increasing levels of poverty and social exclusion with youth unemployment remaining consistently high. Ireland also has the largest number of young people under 18 in the EU15 at a high risk of poverty and has the 4th highest percentage in the EU (18.4%) of young people aged 15 to 24 years not in education, employment or training. Despite this, funding for youth work services supported by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, have been cut by almost 30% over the last five years from €73.1m3 to €51.4m4.
In framing the budget the Government have to take into account of the disproportionate impact of austerity on young people and the services that support them to date. Youth work services are active in every community in Ireland and reach almost 383,000 young people, in particular young people from the most disadvantaged communities in Ireland.
The Indecon Report found that for every €1 invested in youth work the economic benefit/costs saved by the State in the long run are €2.20.
Youth Services have taken a disproportionate cut since the onset of the crisis and within the funding allocation in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. In the 2013 Budget, the cut to youth services represented 33% of the total cuts, despite the fact that the youth services budget only represents 14% of the Departmental budget. The Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in 2011 targets youth services for another €3m in 2014. This is unacceptable and will be opposed by NYCI and the youth sector.