This article explores the impacts of participation in local and national child and youth councils in the Republic of Ireland. It is based on an original research study for which 300 young people were asked about their experience of participating in youth councils. The research indicates that while youth councils have succeeded in offering children and young people opportunities to acquire skills and to influence decision-making at the local level, the institutional and societal impacts of their participation are less apparent. The research provides evidence that youth participation impacts positively on young people’s active citizenship and on-going engagement with democratic institutions after their participatory experiences have ended. It also indicates a growing awareness and recognition of the role of children and young people in the community. The article concludes that participatory structures such as youth councils should be underpinned by statutory guidelines and legislation so that children and young people’s participation is meaningful and gains from their participation are not lost.
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