Sean O’Kelly
Thu, 23 Aug 2012
Being Young and Irish seminar

Being Young and Irish seminar

Sean O’Kelly reports on the recent ‘Being Young and Irish’ seminar hosted by President Michael D. Higgins

Last November I attended a national seminar of ‘Being Young and Irish’ in Áras an Uachtaráin. President Higgins set up this initiative so that young people can have a say in changing society in Ireland. I had already attended a regional workshop in Dublin in September (there were four regional workshops in Dublin, Cork, Monaghan and Galway).

I was invited, along with Megan McGuckin to represent IWA Youth Service at the national seminar. I couldn’t have said no to a once in a lifetime opportunity! It was going to be from ten in the morning to seven in the evening - I thought that was a long day but a good one.

When the day arrived I was really excited. I didn’t know what to expect. At the gate there were guards checking people in. As we drove in the gates I looked around the grounds in amazement. At the door I was given a “Taking Charge of Change” t-shirt and a badge that I could put around my neck.

The seminar room was full with lots of people at tables. Each table was discussing different issues and I was involved with the themes of ‘Identity as Irish’ and ‘Stay positive’.

President Higgins gave the opening speech and then the morning session started. Each table were given a proposed declaration for the ‘Being Young and Irish’ seminars. The proposed declaration was made up of ideas from people doing the regional workshops. We had to read it and then edit the ideas to fit the overall declaration. Once we decided on many changes we had to choose our top three. We each were given a remote control. This was used for voting. After each table read out their individual ideas, the rest of us had to vote whether it was right to put those ideas in the declaration or not. We then had to individually think of ways that we could achieve our vision.

After lunch there was an official presentation of our ‘Taking Charge of Change’ declaration being delivered to President Higgins and Government representatives. Cameramen from RTE and other media bodies were there. A small group of young people gave presentations and presented the final draft of the declaration to President Higgins and Government representatives. After the declaration was delivered, President Higgins and Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald each made a speech on what they thought of the declaration.

Later there was a reception in the house itself, where there were nibbles and drinks. The whole lot of us were able to chat with each other. President Higgins made his last speech of the night thanking everyone for their input into the whole initiative. After his speech, Ryan Sheridan played a couple songs.

I really enjoyed the day. I found it really interesting and loved meeting up again with the people I met the Dublin workshop.