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‘Squeezed In and Squeezed Out: Lessons From Irish Medium Youth Work’

Full house at Glór na Móna for the launch of our significant research report

A huge crowd attended the lively launch of our research report.  Glór na Móna and Fóram na nÓg have been working with Ulster University Community Youth Work team Dr Gail Neil and Eliz McArdle in the development of an Irish Medium Youth Work Model since 2016. In 2020 the research was extended from Belfast to young people in Derry and Omagh.

Ulster University researchers Eliz and Gail, who made the report, said:

In addition was the importance of political education and the absence of fear around discussing or prioritising it.  There is the notion here that youth work is about empowering young people to challenge inequality and become politically active and to support them in engaging, first hand, the role of politics in their everyday lives and the nature of democratic decision making, equality and power.

As a result, young people were supported to develop a political consciousness. While this primarily arose through their interest in the language, it extends to political elements in other areas of their lives. To further support the development of young people in identifying and acting upon injustices, we would advocate for the return of political development as a core youth work practice.”

Caoimhe Nic Cu Uladh, Cumann Óige Uachtar Chluanaí Youth Leader said:

”I started my Journey here at Glór na Móna at the age of 15, as a past pupil of Bunscoil Phobal Feirste and at the time a pupil of Coláiste Feirste I knew I wanted to continue to use my language in a social aspect outside of school, and this is when I discovered Glór na Móna.

At first I used Glór na Móna as a social hub to see my friends and to socialise outside of school. Having been part of a range of programs and events such as volunteer groups, personal and social developments programs and even being part of Dr. Gail Neill and Eliz McArdle’s research in 2016, I later found deeper understanding of my own identity, of my own culture and the culture of my peers.  I found a love for youth work and knew I wanted to be an advocate and an activist to provide more support for not only the Irish language sector but for the young people that come after me.

I’ve spent the last 10 years growing and receiving the best support and opportunities here at Glór na Móna undergoing training, completing a number of OCN’s and with the support of the staff I had even been given the confidence to further my study, something I thought I would never do.  In 2019 I completed the certificate in Youth work and last year I completed my Degree in Community Youth Studies in Ulster University. I have been part of a number of successful campaigns and have been part of lobbying and campaigning for young people’s rights, Irish language rights and against youth sector cuts.”

Orliath Mhic Leanúin, Stiurthóir Fóram na nÓg, said the following:

”This is political and community activism in practice! We need to take cognisance of this success and highlight it as a best case example of how young people really can go about making change and shaping this society!

In the current context, we have 24 groups being locked out of a scheme because a change in policy is needed to ensure that our young people are not squeezed out of funding opportunities that don’t meet the unique requirements of our immersive IME youth work model. Despite this, there have been many positive developments in the past two years and an increasingly positive engagement with EA but we still have a long way to go.

In my current role within Fóram na nÓg I will continue to advocate for the rights of young people being educated through the medium of Irish to ensure that the adequate resources are made available to them! In particular, the Department of Education must ensure that they continue their engagement with the Irish Medium sector to ensure a new policy framework can be developed to properly include the voices of our young people. With new Irish language legislation now on the statute book after a powerful community-led Dream Dearg campaign, now is the perfect time for resolute action.”

Paul Maskey, MP for West Belfast, launched the lively event:

“Glór na Móna are not only building the capacity of our young people to be future leaders, they have also already built the capacity of our young people to be our current day leaders. 

This is very evident with the amount of young people who attended the protests outside the EA headquarters in 2017 or the rally outside Glór na Móna to support the continuation of funds in 2022. The willingness to take the mic to express their feelings, attend meetings to challenge the statutory organisations, and speak to local media outlets is clear for everyone to see. 

Over the years we have had Ministers, senior civil servants including permanent secretaries, and many others visit Glór na Móna, all have recognised and commended the work they are involved in and support the forward vision they have.  

I would also like to thank the Researchers for the University of Ulster for their work on this timely report which provides further evidence and recognition of the importance of Irish Medium youth work and the brilliant work being carried out by groups like Glór na Móna.

I have no doubt that the work of Glór na Móna will continue for many years to come. I want to see this service not only supported but enhanced to enable the full potential of its programmes and the capacity of our young gaels to be developed further.“

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