Photo: Speech Writing Competition winner’s trip to Brussels. Left to right: Gráinne Boylan, Sadbh Boylan, Mairead McGuiness (Vice President of the European Parliament), Juliette O’Donnell, Lisa Wilson (ActionAid Ireland), Séamus Kelly (teacher).
ActionAid Ireland has revealed that the prize for the two chosen winners of the Speech Writing Competition 2019 will be an exciting trip to ActionAid in Greece! The young people, who will be accompanied by their teachers and ActionAid, will see the work of ActionAid first hand and learn about influencing change and policy at the EU level that impact youth and international development issues.
Now in its fifth year, the National Speech Writing Competition aims to raise awareness among young people on global issues, gender equality and sustainable development, and how they can use their voices for positive change.
Winners of the 2018 edition, Juliette O’Donnell and Sadbh Boylan, travelled to Brussels in June where they had the opportunity to gain knowledge of the working of EU institutions, as well as how the EU interacts and works with NGOs. They also met with representatives from different organisations operating in Brussels, including the European Women’s Lobby, European Youth Forum, CONCORD, the Irish Permanent Representation, and a trip to the European Parliament where they met with Mairead McGuinness MEP (Vice President of the European Parliament), and Martina Anderson MEP.
Read what the winners had to say about their experience.
Sadbh Boylan, a student at St. Vincent’s Secondary School, Dundalk:
From the moment we arrived in Brussels, it was all go! I learned a lot more about how things work within the European Union, as well as how the union interacts and works with NGOs. I will admit that I hadn’t heard of some of the NGO’s before the trip, but I found learning about their work to be really interesting and eye-opening. They were all happy to answer any questions we had, and I really appreciated the time they gave up to talk to us.
My favourite part of the trip was visiting the parliament, and to experience the atmosphere there. I would really encourage young people to visit, because I think it’s something you understand more when you actually see it. It can be easy to feel a bit disconnected from it all, because the EU seems so far away-but visiting it and seeing it for myself really helped me understand it all. That was definitely a highlight- though the Belgian waffles were really good too.
Overall, it was an amazing experience that I’m very grateful for, and I definitely came back having learned a lot from my experience. It is something I’ll always remember, and I feel very lucky that I got the chance!
Juliette O’Donnell, Colaiste Einde, Galway:
In Brussels I had the incredible opportunity to visit the EU Parliament, as well as meet MEPs and get to know many NGOs. It was definitely the busiest trip I’ve ever been on, however every meeting was so eye-opening!
I found the Parliament particularly impressive. It was so enlightening to see hundreds of representatives, from every country in the European Union, all working together. It reminded me that firstly, the European Union was set up to safe guard peace and secondly, that the connections it creates among all of us Europeans are vital.
ActionAid even organised a private meeting with the Vice President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness. We discussed the importance of encouraging women to participate in politics and activism. After this meeting, Mrs McGuinness very kindly brought us to the next conference, and even gave us a special mention I will never forget! It was very inspiring to see how actually accessible the heart of change is to me, a seventeen year old Irish student, and thus to us all.
This trip showed me that EU directives have an enormous effect on a national level which means that we all need to be knowledgeable about EU politics in order to vote well, and also to hold our representatives accountable. There are so many challenges that cannot be dealt with on a national level. I also learnt that the most efficient way for NGOs to achieve their goals is to unite on related issues in order to have a stronger voice.
Overall, I highly recommend this life changing competition and I can’t wait to hear next year’s speakers, who will not only have the opportunity to win another wonderful prize but also, learn how powerful their voices are.
For more information on the Speech Writing Competition 2018 click here.