Young people from schools and youth organisations around Northern Ireland gathered in Belfast last week (Thursday 15 November) to tell Stormont politicians to “Listen up!” and engage with their generation when developing policies. And the MLAs responded with a commitment to continue the conversation.
Around 80 young people met at the Rainbow Factory Studio in Belfast for an event hosted by Integrated AlumNI, which also brought together MLAs representing the five main Stormont parties. The politicians agreed to spend the first hour of the event listening to round-table discussions on issues such as education, mental health and flourishing communities before giving feedback on what they had heard.
MLAs attending the ListenUp! event were: Kellie Armstrong APNI, John Blair APNI, Paula Bradley DUP, Linda Dillon SF, Claire Hanna SDLP, Declan Kearney SF, Colin McGrath SDLP, and Mike Nesbitt UUP.
Messages from the tables of young people included a wish to live in a Northern Ireland where “… voting is for parties because of their manifesto rather than religion”. The MLAs were also told firmly: “Politicians need to listen and stop abusing petitions of concern to allow a real democracy”; and an electronic poll showed massive support for an independent commission to review the education system in Northern Ireland.
The ListenUP! event was chaired by comic, playwright and actor Conor Keys and guests were welcomed by Michael Lynch and Laura McCance of Integrated AlumNI.
“The young people in the room have shown passion and commitment in turning out today; let’s keep the momentum going. And we would ask the politicians to do the same; let’s keep the dialogue open and the conversation alive.”
The politicians attending signed a pledge that they would engage further with young people’s groups and continue the conversation.
A full report on the event and the messages from the participants will be published next year.
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