A Derry lawyer has quit her job in Dublin to expand the charity she founded to help empower Ireland’s most marginalised young people.
Mairead Moore, whose career in human rights law has seen her work in the European Commission and the British Houses of Parliament, says Future Voices Ireland - which had its official launch on Tuesday - aims to “give a voice to, instil confidence and improve self esteem” among young people across Ireland’s most socially disadvantaged areas.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ this week, Mairead said the charity is dedicated to the memory of her late brother Eamon.
The 21-year old went missing in November 2011. His body was recovered from the Foyle in late March last year.
“I’ve always been one of those people who has never just had one job, I’ve always been involved in human rights and charity work. I never really took time to stop and think. All that changed during the search for Eamon,” she said.
“I came home, and for months walked up and down the Foyle every day. Suddenly I had so much time to think.
During the difficult months of the search, the idea for Future Voices Ireland began to take shape.
Underpinning the programme is Mairead’s commitment to developing a sense of self worth among most marginalised youth.
“The whole ethos of Future Voices Ireland is developing confidence and self esteem, we use human rights and politics to empower and help develop professional skills,” she said.
The charity’s flagship programme has been running since January, working with 50 teenagers from some of Dublin’s worst performing schools.
“We have been specifically targeting those schools where there are low numbers who go onto college.
“We targeted all the lowest performing schools in the application process, we spoke with the principals, identified the pupils who would benefit from the programme, young people with the ability and the aspirations
“We decided to focus on the field of human rights, on the controversial and contemporary issues in Irish society, like abortion, traveller’s rights, penal reform and cyber bullying - all the issues that adults can’t agree on let alone young people,” she said.
Every Saturday, the fifty strong group of 15 and 16 years olds gather to discuss, debate and share their views on the big issues.
Mairead continued: ”It’s a long term commitment, every Saturday for six months, but already the difference in the kids has been amazing. You can see them growing in confidence.
“I’ve had parents ringing me to say that this is changing their children’s lives, that the young people are discovering a confidence within themselves.
“We’ll also help the young people get jobs in law firms and charities when they finish the formal aspect of the programme, and we’ll help with college applications, get things set up in terms of long term support - it’s not the end come June.”
Run by a management board of seven legal professionals, with the help of the Law Society of Ireland, Future Voices Ireland counts Senator David Norris, the Education Minster Ruairi Quinn and Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan among its supporters.
The Irish Minister for Social Inclusion Joan Burton and Supreme Court Judge Frank Clarke will speak at the launch of the charity on Tuesday.
Derry band Seraphis - who include Mairead’s twin cousins David and James in their line up - will also showcase their talent at the launch.
Further ahead, Mairead plans to roll the project out nationally, including coming north to Derry as well as expanding services to the long term unemployed.
You can get more information online at www.futurevoicesireland.org