23 April 2015

Over 60 teenagers from schools and youth organisations, participating in Young Social Innovators (YSI) 2015, yesterday attended a first of its kind Youth Voice event in Leinster house. The Youth Voice Event, which was opened by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and Áine Collins, TD , gave young people the opportunity to take part in a live Q&A where they put questions to government representatives. Young people from across the country also live-tweeted questions to the panel of public representatives during the event using the hashtag #YSIYouthVoice.

The Youth Voice event, organised by Young Social Innovators, was designed to give young people the opportunity to speak directly to government about real issues that concern them and affect themselves and their local communities. Young Social Innovators, supported by Vodafone Foundation Ireland, is a large movement of young people who are bringing about positive change using social innvoation with some 25,000 young people involved in its programmes, training and events this year. Today’s questions covered issues including marriage equality, local communities, education and health as well as farm and online safety.

Speaking about the Young Social Innovators’ Youth Voice event, Molly O’Harte (15), Student from Largy College, Clones, Co. Monaghan said, “Every young person here today has been working on a social issue and trying to bring positive change to something we care about. Getting the chance to have our voices heard at government level has been amazing. It makes you feel that your opinion does count and that the government does want to listen to the youth voice. We have strong opinions and ideas about the type of society we want to live in and today this event shows we really have something to offer. Today has been a great opportunity to be able to talk directly with our government representatives and ask some of the questions the youth of today want to know the answers to”.

The Youth Voice event saw young people put their questions to public representatives including Áine Collins, TD, Senator Jillian Van Turnhout, Jerry Buttimer, TD, John Lyons, TD, Michael Healy-Rae, TD, and Mary Mitchell O’ Connor, TD, under the topics of Technolgy; Local Community; Poverty, Equality and Inclusion; Education and Employment; and Health and Well-being.

Áine Collins, TD who chaired the event said “It is the responsibility of all of us in Government to listen to the opinions and the voice of the youth. I have had the pleasure of engaging first hand with the young people involved in Young Social Innovators over the last number of months and have been so impressed by their passion, innovation and depth of knowlegde. They are trailblazers and innovators with real determination to change their local communities, as their questions here today have proved. Today has been a fantatsic opportunity for a cross party selection of my colleagues and I to engage with, and hear the feedback and opinions of, the young leaders of the future.”

Rachel Collier, CEO, Young Social Innovators said, “Young people are a powerful force for good in Ireland and have much to offer to local communities and the wider society. Today’s event shows that young people do care about social justice and that they have strong opinions and ideas on how to address the issues we face today. We are delighted to facilitate this unique event in Leinster House and thank all of the government representatives who participated in it.”

Young Social Innovators, whose official sponsor partner is Vodafone Foundation Ireland and lead statutory partner is the Department of Envirnoment, Community and Local Government, is currently gearing up for the Young Social Innovators of the Year 2015 Awards and Showcase which will take place on May 6th. The annual event is a celebration of social innovation in Ireland and is one of the largest youth events in the country with over 5,000 young people in attendance. The event gives young people from all over Ireland the opportunity to exhibit their project work demonstraitng the innovative ways that they have tackled social issues such as health, homelessness, domestic violence, LGBT rights, disability, safety and bullying. The event also features lots of indoor and outdoor educational, social and interactive activities. The 400 social innovation projects will be represented with 61 projects going forward for the overall title and award; Young Social Innovators of the Year 2015, on Wednesday May 6th in the Citywest Hotel, Conference and Event Centre, Dublin.

For more information about Young Social Innovators or the 2015 Showcase and Awards, please visit www.youngsocialinnovators.ie