The Northern Ireland Youth Forum and the NEELB Glens Leadership Group travelled to Stormont to learn about the history of our political structures in Stormont and to engage with local East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan.
The visit was supported by the Rural Enabler Programme which is a Peace III funded programme, managed by Rural Community Network. The programme is a County based programme throughout NI and the border Counties of the South of Ireland aimed at working with rural communities on issues such as sectarianism and racism, promoting dialogue amongst young people, and building capacity within communities.
The NEELB Glens Leadership Group is supported by their Outreach/Detached Youth Worker, Tara McHugh Logan. The adult volunteer with the group, Christine McNeill, alongside two other young people from the Glens group, and one from Clonard Youth Group, who attended on the day, are also members of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum Executive.
The first phase of this project involved a tour of Stormont, meeting an MLA and political party staff, and dialogue around issues affecting young people and Northern Ireland in general. The young people were given an opportunity to ask questions about political structures, how to get involved in politics, the process of getting elected, issues affecting their own communities, contentious issues in NI such as flags and emblems and parades. They were also given a talk about the Rural Enabler Programme, about its aims and objectives and the potential for support for a link with Sligo Comhairle na nOg through the programme in County Sligo.
Oliver McMullan MLA welcomed the opportunity to facilitate the visit from the young people to Stormont.
“This was a great opportunity to meet a lovely group of young people, keen to learn about our political structures and to engage with politicians and other young people to learn and share ideas. I was delighted to be able to meet everyone, and have fun, whilst at the same time talk to them about my role, both within the East Antrim Constituency, and at Stormont, where I sit on a number of committees.”
Orla Black Rural Enabler for County Antrim added;
“Young people often see the Stormont building, and politicians on the tv , however, they may not always realise what these people do, how they can support them in their ideas and in life, and how the process of our political structures work. Our programme is about giving young people the opportunity to learn and build their own capacity and to have dialogue with those that may not have the opportunity to have dialogue with. We hope that as a result of this visit they will now recognise some faces on their tv screens and know some history about our Parliament buildings and will feel confident to engage with local political representatives on issues that are affecting them.”
Tara McHugh Logan from NEELB has been working with the Glens young people for quite some time and has encouraged them to embrace any opportunity that supports their development both personally, and as a group. She thanked Oliver and Orla for organising and supporting the visit to Stormont.
“This was a valuable opportunity for the young people from the Glens to engage and learn. They all really enjoyed themselves and are keen to develop this learning by meeting those from Sligo Comhairle na nOg . This visit has inspired the Glens young people who are now keen to explore the theme of democracy in more depth, including local political structures. I intend to progress on this with the group over the next few months with the support from local political representatives and the Rural Enabler Programme.”