On Wednesday 25 November the Speaker’s office hosted the first NI Youth Congress Annual Sitting in the Assembly Chamber at Stormont, supported by Politics Plus.
The Northern Ireland Youth Congress was established in March 2014, following an election in which over 7,000 young people voted to appoint Members of Youth Congress (MYCs) from each of the constituencies in Northern Ireland.
Since its establishment, the Youth Congress has developed a manifesto, met with MLAs and key decision makers, organised ‘Have Your Say Days’, consultations and campaigns. This work will form the basis for dialogue during the Annual Sitting.
Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin launched the first sitting of the Youth Congress and discussed the potential for a positive youth politics to build a strong future in Northern Ireland.
Sophie Bell, MYP and member of the Executive Council of NIYF, opened the event with a passionate speech, calling for representation at every level of society. Guest speaker, Martin McCauley, previous Chairperson of NI Youth Forum, discussed the vital importance of a youth assembly to tackle specific youth issues.
Billy Dixon, guest motivational speaker, inspired the participants to step outside of their comfort zone and become more confident.
The participants then engaged in a workshop of their choice in preparation for the debate including; youth participation structures, voting at 16, age discrimination, racism and sectarianism, and the provision of mental health support. The speakers on the motions in the afternoon debate took part in a separate workshop with Billy Dixon, in order to develop oratory skills and how to deliver an excellent speech.
Also attending were the NUS-USI President, Fergal McFerran, and Chairperson of the NIYF Executive Council, Matthew Carson. They helped launch the partnership agreement between NUS-USI and NIYF.
The afternoon debate in the Assembly Chamber covered the five motions which were discussed in the workshops and the contributions from speakers and fellow students alike were incredibly personal and insightful. Hopefully we will see some of them back in the NI Assembly in the future!
The event was attended by Junior Ministers Jennifer McCann MLA and Emma Pengelly MLA who addressed the Chamber after the debate, as well as several MLAs including Chris Lyttle, Sammy Douglas, Trevor Lunn, Gordon Lyons, Mike Nesbitt, Chris Hazzard, Claire Hanna, Maeve McLaughlin, Roy Beggs, Kieran McCarthy, Sam Gardiner and Adrian Cochrane-Watson
Politics Plus will continue to engage with youth politics and the future leaders and activists to help them further their knowledge and understanding of government, public life and making a positive difference in society.