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9 August 2010

Northern Ireland Assembly plans for youth assembly

The Northern Ireland Assembly is planning for a youth assembly. A youth assembly will give young people the chance to make a real difference and have a stronger voice on issues that concern them. We want everyone to get involved and be part of the work of the Assembly and young people are an important part of that.
It was clear that young people should play an important role in developing the youth assembly and to support this in early 2010, The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William Hay, MLA launched our Youth Panel. The Youth Panel will work to develop the roles, responsibilities and format of the youth assembly.
The 30-strong Panel began their work with two official meetings. The first coincided with Community Relations Week - one of the challenges the youth assembly will face is to ensure that it is truly representative of all sections of our community. The Panel took evidence on this important topic from Dr Duncan Morrow Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council; and Eva Grosman and Cool FM DJ Pete Snodden representing the Unite Against Hate campaign.
The Panel’s second meeting was held at the Balmoral Show to hear evidence on the needs of young people from rural communities. Representatives from the Rural Community Network and Youth Action gave evidence to the Committee.
In June, Panel Members attended a Sitting of the Scottish Youth Parliament and met with Members to learn from their experience. During July the Panel met representatives of Dáil na nÓg and attended the first ever Sitting of the UK Youth Parliament to be held in Northern Ireland.
In the autumn, the Panel will meet a wide range of stakeholders including young people, youth organisations, representatives of local political parties and their youth wings to gather thoughts and views on how a Northern Ireland youth assembly should work.
In addition the Panel hopes to circulate a questionnaire on the future shape of a youth assembly to offer as many groups and individuals as possible to contribute to the planning process. Key questions for the panel include:
  • What should a youth assembly aim to do?
  • How many members should there be?
  • What should the age range be?
  • How should Members be elected / selected?
  • How can we ensure that all sections of society have representation / a fair say in a youth assembly?
  • Where should a youth assembly meet?
  • How should a youth assembly work with the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive?
This promises to be a busy, stimulating and challenging year for the Youth Panel members as they try to find answers to these and other questions by March 2011. It is hoped that a new youth assembly will be up and running towards the end of 2011 and will bring young people’s issues to the heart of Northern Ireland democracy.
If you, or your organisation, want to keep up to date with progress or if you want to have your say, join us on www.facebook.com/niyouthassembly. Alternatively, if you would like to receive updates or information on how to submit evidence to the Youth Panel please email us at info@niyouthassembly.com