Thousands to gather in Dublin for Foróige Citizenship Awards

The event rewards young people who act to address the needs of their communities

More than 2,000 young people, who have worked on issues such as road safety, homelessness and anti-bullying, will gather in Dublin on Saturday for the annual Foróige Citizenship Awards.

Foróige, the largest youth organisation in the State, provides a network of volunteer-led clubs to 50,000 people aged 10-18.

The overall winning project, out of more than 200 entries, will be announced by the Minister for Equality David Stanton on Saturday afternoon.

The aim of the citizenship awards, sponsored by Aldi, is to encourage young people to look at the needs in their community and devise practical responses.


Among those competing for top prize is CE Óige in Buncrana, Co Donegal, who worked to raise awareness in their community about the possible implications of Brexit.

Asked why they looked at this, the young people, aged 11-13, said they had been brainstorming for an idea and hearing about Brexit on the news.

Their research included reading news reports, interviewing local farmers and inviting local TD Charlie McConalogue to talk to them about what the departure of neighbouring Northern Ireland from the EU could mean for Donegal.

"We found out 90 per cent of the Irish mushrooms go to England, so the mushroom industry will be affected," says Fiachra Gill (13).

"And that there are 275 border crossings between the North and the South, but during the Troubles only 20 were open," adds James Henderson (12).

Some of the young people’s parents work in Derry and if border crossings were introduced their commutes could get longer, meaning they could be away from home longer each day.

In Dublin's Corduff – a disadvantaged area of northwest Dublin – local Foróige members felt there was nowhere quiet and peaceful for people to go, especially for those with mental health issues. When they heard the Genesis family therapy centre planned to renovate its community garden they asked if they could help.

Ryan Moloney (14) explains how they built flower planters with old pallets, designed and built a mural and raised money to buy plants and seeds.

“We had football matches and raised money that way. It was good doing all the planting and gardening. I’d never done anything like that before.”

‘We have a laugh’

Foróige, which has been operating since 1952, now works with more than 50,000 young people in its clubs, projects and youth cafes across the state.

It also delivers targeted projects, including with the Garda youth diversion service, teen-parent supports and neighbourhood youth projects. These in particular support young people to cope with issues around poverty and social exclusion, including early school leaving, substance abuse and family difficulties.

Both the Donegal and Corduff groups speak enthusiastically about what Foróige means to them. Ecxose Capitao in Corduff says if it weren’t for Foróige many young people in the area would have little else to do.

“Sitting at home, on computer games,” he suggests. “Foróige is great. The people are really nice and we have a laugh.”

The club, which operates out of Corduff Sports Centre, provides homework clubs, cooking classes, dancing as well as sports including football and kayaking, all free of charge. During school holidays low-cost camps are provided.

In Donegal, Fion Doherty says Foróige is a place he enjoys going to, where he is learning all the time.

“The difference between Foróige and school is that in school you’re learning things like history, but here you’re learning about things happening in the world now.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times