Here is an account from Darragh McBrearty:
My name is Darragh McBrearty, I’m 16 years old, and I’m from a small town in Co. Donegal, Ireland. I’m heavily involved with Foróige, who have offered me a multitude of different amazing opportunities over the last few years, but being offered an opportunity to represent Ireland at the European Youth Seminar in Brussels this year has been by far the most notable.
At an early start on the 14th of May, 2019, our group flew from Dublin, Ireland, to Brussels, Belgium. We spent the day exploring the beautiful city of Brussels, learning about Belgian culture, food, and history. We also visited the European Union Parliamentarium, where we learned about the history of the EU, its European and global influence, and what it means to be a resident of Europe. Learning about the European Union was extremely interesting, and I definitely feel that I learned a lot of valuable information about being a young person in the European Union.
The next morning, we all got up early again, and headed out to the European Parliament, where the European Youth Seminar was being held. We were all fascinated by the beauty of the city once again, and especially how much the European Parliament brings to its' culture. One of my favourite aspects of Brussels was the diversity, an element present all throughout the city. Many nationalities, world religions, and the LGBTI+ community were all clearly highly represented in the city.
When we reached the European Parliament and passed through security, we were greeted by extremely helpful and friendly staff who showed us to the registration area. We were given a “goodie-bag”, filled with many wonderful European gifts, including a fully biodegradable pen, a reusable cup made from algae, and a biodegradable notepad.
Our seminar was by far the most interesting part of our trip. We were brought into a large room, filled with chairs with stickers sitting on them. There were five colours. To maximise inclusion in the seminar, they assigned each country to a certain colour of sticker. Ours (Ireland) was green of course.
Throughout the day, we did two workshops; one on disinformation (“fake news”), and one about the European Elections 2024, and how we can maximise the amount of young people engaging in European politics and voting in it. We did this through the #ThisTimeI’mVoting campaign, which is a European initiative based in many EU member states that aims to encourage more and more young people to vote. My group’s focus was how we can decentralise the campaign, so that even more young people can gain valuable knowledge about how much their vote matters. We came up with many great ideas, for example; advising that the campaign becomes an “on the road” initiative. This would mean visiting every major town/city in a given country, and campaigning at schools, universities and in the community to help young people see how important it is to vote.
During the day, we were invited to take a tour of the European Parliament Hemicycle. We were really lucky in being able to see this, as they were preparing for the European Commissioner Debate at the time. It was extremely interesting to learn about European debates overall. After a great day in the European Parliament, it was time to catch our flight back to Dublin.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Brussels, and I would encourage anyone interested in the EU to participate in the next European Youth Seminar if they can. I’d also highly encourage anyone to take the initiative, and use their vote as it is such a valuable asset to society.