'Academy of Activism' Held in Galway

As the latest statistics showed Ireland's unemployment rate continues to rise, 20 young people from across Ireland gathered in Galway last weekend determined to highlight their desire for much needed change.

“If we don't engage young people as we plot a healthier development path, then we are doomed to repeat the history of the past"

The SpunOut.ie Academy of Activism, supported by the Huston Film School at NUIG, is a free training course for young people of different backgrounds who are passionate about making a difference in the world around them. The training is offered by the multi-award winning SpunOut.ie youth charity as part of its work in empowering young people in their personal and social development.

Ruairí McKiernan, founder of SpunOut.ie, says the academy is unique in that it is targeted at young people and seeks to support them in addressing the issues they feel strongly about rather than pushing a particular agenda. "Young people make up 40 per cent of our population,” he says, “and they are disproportionately affected by unemployment, emigration, and health and education cuts. Young people don't often have access to channels of decision-making and influence but yet are crying out for ways to get involved in making a difference. Our academy is a response to this need and comes at a critical time in Ireland's development.”

McKiernan is adamant that the mistakes of the eighties should be avoided, and he says it is vital that another generation of young Irish people are not forced to leave Irish shores: “If we don't engage young people as we plot a healthier development path then we are doomed to repeat the history of the past and see an energetic, educated, skilled and passionate generation go to waste. Providing them with opportunities to participate and upskilling them with tools and techniques of campaigning, fundraising, strategy and media are vital to raising their voices and becoming a force for change."

Last weekend’s academy included a range of workshops, discussion and debate sessions and guest speakers. Participants, who were chosen based on a competitive application process, participated in sessions on understanding media, online activism, the political system and campaign planning and strategy. There were questions and answers sections with Government representative Senator Niall O'Brolchain (Greens), MEP Marian Harkin (Independent) and Mayor of Co. Roscommon Luke Flanagan ('Ming the Merciless'). The weekend was facilitated by experienced campaigners including Ruairí McKiernan and Emily Lindenmuth from SpunOut.ie and ex-Amnesty Western Campaigns Manager Sarah Clancy.

Speakers included young Cystic Fibrosis campaigner Orla Tinsley, author and former Irish Times Latin American Correspondent Michael McCaughan, Mark Conroy from campaigning website Contact.ie, and Niamh Moloughney who coordinated the Free Gaza Irish Flotilla to Palestine (Rachel Corrie ship).

McKiernan concluded saying, "The academy was an overwhelming success. Young people came from west Cork, Wateford, Dublin, Tyrone and throughout the island to demonstrate their commitment to making a positive difference. It is really inspiring to know that there is such interest and energy for activism out there and the weekend proved to us that our model of working with young people and engaging them directly in the issues that affect them is the way forward in bringing about much needed change”.


(source: Galway Advertiser)