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The Y Factor at the Engage Conference 2014

August 26, 2014 at 11:52

Belated happy International Youth Day!  International Youth Day falls on the 12th of August, as I recently learned – by participating in an event held to mark it, no less.  I’m telling you, this The Y Factor lark is most educational.


The Youth Platform Project – in conjunction with the Dublin City Integration Forum, the New Communities Partnership, and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs – held their Engage Conference 2014 on Tuesday the 12th of August.  With 20% of Ireland’s population now made up of immigrants, the majority of whom are under 35, Ireland is an increasingly diverse society.  This is something that is to be welcomed and celebrated, but it’s also something that requires work: it requires awareness and activism to ensure that we dismantle the barriers to full equality that are all too present here and elsewhere. 


With this in mind, the Engage Conference addressed the topics of equality, mental health, integration, youth leadership and entrepreneurship, and the challenges and opportunities they present to young people from minority backgrounds.  Some wonderful speakers, including Reginald Inya of the New Communities Partnership, Anne Walsh of the National Youth Council, and Emilia Marchelewska of Cairde, provided great insight into what is being done and what needs to be done to ensure that the Ireland of the near future is a better and kinder place for all those living here.  For all of us in attendance I think it’s fair to say that theRt. Hon. Lord Paul Boateng’s speech was definitely a highlight.  An exercise in oratory at its finest, his genuine warmth and commitment to “solidarity against injustice” made it clear that he is a man of both style and substance.

The afternoon session was dedicated to small group sessions on the topics mentioned above.  Due to numbers and the cruel hand of Fate, the equality and entrepreneurship groups were merged.  I’m a big fan of the former, but alas have not an entrepreneurial bone in my body.  Vanessa Mulhall of Pixi Pots certainly has, however.  The President of France has one of her very pretty pots.  This lady is going places.


Although primarily focused on Dublin, groups from what I believe the city slickers among you call ‘down the country’ were also in attendance.  I had some lovely chats with two volunteers from the Youth Café in Carrickmacross – can I just say here now that every town and village in the country needs at least one of those? – and Joseph Mguni, a youth worker with Ossory Youth in Kilkenny who brought a group of Sudanese/Kilkenny teenagers to the conference.  The importance of including and representing people from a variety of backgrounds was highlighted by the conference, but these and other groups based outside Dublin also highlight the need for a more national, coordinated approach to tackling inequality.


As I left Dublin Castle in search of falafel – I am always in search of falafel – I was only buzzin’ from all the ideas and potential that had fuelled the conference.  Here’s hoping that they come to fruition!



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