My name is Maria Lee and I’m a Fifth Year student. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the European Youth Parliament Leinster session. EYP Ireland aims to spark an interest in European issues among Irish teenagers. I’m a member of the Maryfield Global Issues Group and I took part in the Concern Debates last year, so when my teacher Ms Mellon recommended the EYP session to me I knew that it was the sort of thing I’d be likely to enjoy.
The residential session took place over three days. Approximately one hundred young people took part, and we were divided into ten different committees for the weekend, each with a different EU-related topic to discuss. I was a member of the ‘FEMM’ committee, and we were tackling the issue of gender-based violence.
After a fun teambuilding session on Friday night, we were ready to get down to work on Saturday. The ten people on our committee, with some guidance from our Chairs (two former EYP delegates), spent the day discussing, sharing opinions, arguing and agonising until we finally completed our task for the day: to write a resolution on our topic, on which we were all agreed. This was difficult, but it was a very rewarding experience. By the end of the day I understood the issue of gender-based violence so much better than I had before, and I’d developed my own opinions on how it should be tackled.
A disco had been organised for Saturday night, and while I hadn’t really expected to enjoy that very much with a group of people I hadn’t known up until the day before, it ended up being great fun! I had made plenty of good friends by then and was more than happy to dance away with them for the night.
Sunday, however, was the most enjoyable day of the session by far. It was the day of the General Assembly, where all of us delegates were united to present our resolutions from the committee work. Each committee got the chance to explain and defend their suggestions for how their issue should be tackled by the EU, and the rest of the delegates then had to vote on whether or not to pass the resolution. It was an action-packed day of debating, rebutting, making speeches, picking apart other committees’ resolutions and, most importantly, learning. The list of topics covered was hugely varied, from Bitcoin to driverless cars, to mental health and the rise of extremist right wing parties. By the time I was going home, I had gained an understanding of these topics that I never could have through simply reading articles or watching the news. The GA was one of the most exciting and empowering experiences I’ve ever had.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in EYP. It was an incredible, unforgettable weekend that has taught me so much and has made me seriously consider setting my sights on working in the EU when I’m older. I’ve made wonderful friends and the whole experience has inspired me to work for change where change is needed. I now feel confident in expressing my opinions, and ready to stand up and make my voice heard.