The Occupy movement that has been sweeping the globe came to Kilkenny with a difference on April 1 as 50 young people “occupied” Ossory Youth for 24 hours.
The event entitled “Occupy Ossory Youth” was the brainchild of 17 young people who are members of Youthink, a youth social club in Kilkenny facilitated by Ossory Youth. The group meets every Saturday in Desart Hall Youth Centre and want to have a positive role to play in the life of the city and environs.
The motto of Youthink is “Think, Talk. Do” and in keeping with this motto “Occupy Ossory Youth” was built around an afternoon of debate and discussion involving a number of invited guests who in looking at local, national or international issues had not just thought or talked about their concerns and convictions but also acted upon them attempted to make a real difference.
The aim of the event was for the young people to gain a sense of empowerment to tackle issues that they feel strongly about after hearing the personal motivations and convictions of, and debating with, the guests who had all volunteered their time for the afternoon.
Speakers Michael Canney, John Paul Phelan and Jim Kavanagh clearly fitted the bill of people who had taken the courage of their convictions and acted upon them. Michael Canney has been involved in various environmental campaigns since the early 1990s, most recently the Shell to Sea and Hill of Tara motorway protests. He gave the young people insight into the different elements employed in the environmental protest campaigns in which he has been involved. He thought that the proliferation of media today may mean that young people are more socially aware that in the past but his advice to all present was to attempt to gain a critical perspective of the media and how it operates.
John Paul Phelan, current Fine Gael TD, first ran for election at age 19 and was elected to Kilkenny County Council. He outlined his personal motivation in becoming involved in politics and answered a series of questions in relation to the social, economic and political situation facing Ireland in 2012.
Jim Kavanagh has been the driving force behind the Chernobyl Kilkenny Outreach Group for nearly 20 years. He outlined a bleak picture of Belarus today and of people still struggling to come to terms with the disastrous consequences of the nuclear accident in 1986 and gave some practical examples in relation to how young people can contribute today.
In addition to these three speakers, Martin Bridgeman of KCLR gave a perspective on the history of protest songs through the decades. He encouraged the young people to write a protest song relevant to their lives in 2012.
Youthink group member Feibhar Baldwin-Wall said afterwards: “It was really interesting and kind of challenging that people like Michael Canney and John Paul Phelan felt compelled to start on the road that they are still on today by what they saw happening in the world around them when they were just our age or slightly older.”
Having completed Occupy Ossory Youth, Youthink is planning a busy summer and autumn with an environmental project in Kilkenny city, further developing a youth mental health awareness campaign commenced in 2011 with support from Headstrong (National Centre for Youth Mental Health) and organising more youth events in Desart Hall Youth Centre. Further information on Youthink can be found on their Facebook page, at www.ossoryyouth.com or by contacting Patrick Bookle at Ossory Youth 056 7761200.