Ben highlights importance of Youth Parliament

Ben Sharkey (right) with Pat Catney MLA.
Ben Sharkey (right) with Pat Catney MLA.

The Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) for Lagan Valley, Ben Sharkey, recently met with the SDLP MLA Pat Catney in his Lisburn office to discuss the future of the UK Youth Parliament in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting, Ben, a former Wallace High School pupil, said: “It’s always really encouraging when politicians make the time to meet with us MYPs. Meetings like this one, and the publicity following them, are vital if we want future generations to have a Youth Parliament of their own in Northern Ireland.

“Many don’t even know of the funding crisis that we face, or just how likely it is that there won’t be any youth representation in NI this time next year. The Youth Parliament is starving because of its anonymity, with even Mr Catney saying he was only ‘aware’ of its existence.”

The two men engaged in a conversation about how the Youth Parliament could reach its goal of finding the £26,000 of funding necessary to run a full year of activities across 18 constituencies.

The young parliamentarian had his own suggestion for how the money could be raised - a small cut in the salaries of MLAs.

“If you took £290 off each MLA’s £49,500 salary, you could more than save the Youth Parliament, to prepare the next generation of leaders,” Ben continued.

“During my meeting with Pat Catney, he stated he would be ‘really up for’ this potential cut, for the sake of the next generation, which was really encouraging to hear. I plan to now bring this idea to more MLAs from more parties, and I just hope they all share the same warm welcome that I received in the SDLP Lisburn constituency office.”