Young people pick seven people who inspire them

Bernadette McAliskey, Irish socialist and republican political activist pictured with a portrait of herself, at the Enagh Youth Forum's 'Inspirational Figures' event on Thursday at the Strathfoyle Library. Included from left are Brandon McElhinney, Madeline Smyth, Martin McCartney, Maydown Community  Association, Eamon O'Donnell, Youth Support Worker and Julie Harkin, NI Libraries. DER4913JM140
Bernadette McAliskey, Irish socialist and republican political activist pictured with a portrait of herself, at the Enagh Youth Forum's 'Inspirational Figures' event on Thursday at the Strathfoyle Library. Included from left are Brandon McElhinney, Madeline Smyth, Martin McCartney, Maydown Community Association, Eamon O'Donnell, Youth Support Worker and Julie Harkin, NI Libraries. DER4913JM140
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Bernadette Devlin McAliskey is jealous of all of the young people inside the small library in the Strathfoyle housing estate.

Bernadette was the guest speaker at the launch of local youth group, Enagh Youth Forum’s (EYF) booklet on inspirational figures on Thursday.

The young people from EYF met with their youth workers Eamon O’Donnell and Paul Hughes and came up with a list of seven people they found inspiring and from that spawned the booklet titled ‘Enagh Youth Forum - Inspirational Figures’.

After Bernadette, the remaining six inspirational figures to be included in the booklet were local activist and journalist, Eamonn McCann; American civil rights campaigner, Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr; Northern Irish trade union and human rights campaigner, Inez McCormack; African-American civil rights activist, Rosa Parks; Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist, Malcolm X.

Bernadette McAliskey said: “When Eamon O’Donnell from EYF contacted me and asked me to come here to Strathfoyle to speak at a launch of a book that young people had put together, I asked him if he was serious.

“When I look at that list and see people like Eamon McCann and Inez McCormack I don’t see inspirational figures, I see the people I grew up with, I see my friends. My generation is much much older now and I couldn’t believe that any of the young people today would know who were were - but when I look at you all today I am jealous I am not one of you. I might look older but I have the same fire and fight inside me today as I had all those years ago,” said Bernadette smiling.

EYF youth co-ordinator, Eamonn O’Donnell, explained how the idea for the book came about and lamented the fact the launch took place on the day former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela died.

“It’s quite ironic that we are launching a book like this on the same day someone as iconic and as inspirational as Nelson Mandela has died.

“When EYF first received the grant from the ‘Culture for All’ Programme, we decided to do a piece of art that would build confidence, self esteem and give young people a voice.

“To that end, we looked for people who had in the past inspired others to be the change they wanted to see.

“EYF is all about campaigning for social justice, promoting parity of esteem and promoting young people in a positive light. The young people from EYF reflected on people who have inspired and motivated them in the campaigns that they have been part of in the past,” said Eamonn.

EYF member, Brandon McElhinney spoke on behalf of the young people who took part in the project and said not only did creating the booklet give them a chance to make their voice heard but it also gave them the opportunity to learn from one another.

“Not everyone in the group had heard of all these figures but everyone had heard of at least one or two. I suppose when you look at it that way there was a real educational side to it too,” he said.

“By getting involved with the youth forum many of the young people who live in the Strathfoyle area have learned all about the importance of campaigning.

“I am very proud to have been involved with this booklet and I would like to thank Eamonn O’Donnell and Paul Hughes,” said Brandon.

After settling on the seven inspirational figures the young people set about finding out about each of them and to illustrate their work, seven portraits of each of the seven people were painted.

After the book launch was over, Paul Hughes and Eamonn O’Donnell presented Bernadette Devlin McAliskey with her painting.

“I’ll try not and look as angry next time,” laughed Bernadette.

For more information on the ‘Enagh Youth Forum: Inspirational Figures’ booklet, contact EYF on 028 71 860377 or email enagh.youthforum@yahoo.ie