Northern Ireland Election 2016

Who are BBC Generation 2016 in Northern Ireland?

BBC Northern Ireland Generation 2016 logo

Fifty youngsters from Northern Ireland have been selected for the BBC Generation 2016 project ahead of the assembly elections on 5 May.

They represent a cross-section of 18 to 25-year-olds living in Northern Ireland and will take part in discussions in the BBC's coverage of the election.

These young people are from a diverse range of backgrounds and communities.

They'll appear across BBC output to talk about issues that affect them, or more broadly about their lives in 2016.

Here you'll find the whole group, introducing themselves to the nation in their own words.

Join the conversation with @BBCGen2016 and find out more at bbc.co.uk/generation2016.

Sian Barker, 18, Bangor

Image copyright Sian Barker

I am studying for A levels in politics, English literature and history. My love for rock, indie and metal music is close to complete religious devotion, so a lot of my time is spent either listening to my favourite bands at home or going to concerts and gigs. I also love watching Friends, independent films and reading. Despite crashing into a car in a car park six days after passing my test, one of my other favourite things is going on drives with my friends. I would describe myself as very talkative, and this comes in handy with my interest in politics and my plan to read law with politics at university. I'm a great believer in living in an open society, and here in NI we need to have more conversations on "awkward" topics like the Troubles, as well as breaking down social norms. The mantra "there are three things you should never talk about - religion, sex and politics" is the epitome of stupidity in my opinion. My main hopes for the foreseeable future are LGBT equality in NI, a greater representation of women in politics and less disparity between the "rich" and the "poor".

Edward Bell, 19, Kells

I am a student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. I was born, raised and still live in the small town of Kells, County Antrim, though this summer may see some big changes as I hopefully move to the big city! I would say I'm fun and easy going, always up for a good ol' laugh and adventures are always welcome. 

I am a first year undergraduate of BSc communication, advertising and marketing, delving into the big world of all that's around us in the media and what makes us tick as consumers. Throughout my entire life music has been a big passion of mine and a personal influencer, whether it be listening to as much music as I can in a day, right down to collecting audio equipment, although ironically I can only play the recorder… barely. 

Gillian Bell, 23, Carrickfergus

Image copyright Gillian Bell

I graduated from Ulster University with a BSc Biomedical Engineering and now work at Ulster University Students' Union. I am on the hunt for a job for after I finish up at the end of June. Being involved in the student movement has exposed me to a wide variety of people and opinions. I've been involved in debate and have learned to be sceptical of headline figures. I am a strong supporter of protecting free speech and oppose all censorship, as I believe it shuts down debate.

I am mad about reading. I fully believe it is an important life skill; I usually have a minimum of three books on the go. I enjoy dark humour, I'm not easily offended and spend an unhealthy amount of time on YouTube watching fan theory videos and alternative media podcasts.

Demi Browne, 22, Derry

Image copyright Demi Browne

I'm currently unemployed but would like to be a youth worker in the future. I was inspired to do this after training with a local youth group, helping to facilitate volunteering and residentials.

I live with my family but will be moving out soon to live with my boyfriend. We are expecting a baby, which we're excited about. I've felt disengaged with politics in the past because I feel like I don't understand. I previously haven't voted but this year I definitely will, though I'm not sure who I will vote for.

James Carson, 19, Carrickfergus

Image copyright James Carson

Having grown up in a community still bogged down in the quarrels and grievances of generations past, my aspiration is to ensure the stagnation that plagues Northern Ireland and the UK become less prevalent.

My ideas seek to defy the scaremongering that politics is dominated by; to show the virtue of life outside of the European Union, to give a voice and represent the silent majority in Northern Ireland who cannot be heard due to the noise of the vocal minority, and promote the value of education in healing the wounds and allowing our future generations to learn how not to repeat past mistakes. I hope to promote the idea that the political process is not simply about the failings of politicians, but in achieving true progress for all.

Caolan Clifford, 19, Belfast

Image copyright Caolan Clifford

I am a highly political person who spends most of their free time campaigning on various political issues in and around Belfast city centre, most recently the closures to mental health day care centres. I am the vice president of the Belfast Met Titanic Quarter campus, a role which involves trying to keep the campus as inclusive as possible for the near 15,000 students from all walks of life who attend it, as well as representing them on a larger scale within NUS-USI. I am a fluent Gaeilge speaker having previously attended Colaiste Feirste, the only Irish medium secondary school in Northern Ireland.

Rebecca Connolly, 19, Belfast

I am originally from a little village outside of Belfast called Crumlin. I'm currently in the process of studying for my SAT exams and hope to be going to college in American starting in September 2017. The things I am most passionate about are LGBT rights and fighting for young people to have a voice. I first got involved with politics at the age of 15 when I ran for election to represent young people from my area in the UK Youth Parliament. After being an elected member of Youth Parliament, I was elected on to the UKYP Procedures group, the governing body of the UK Youth Parliament.

My involvement in youth politics has recently taken a more international turn after I became involved in the UK Young ambassadors programme which sees young people represent the UK on a European level.

Ross Connolly, 17, Killyleagh

I have been deeply interested and engaged in politics for several years now, but I understand why many young people in Northern Ireland feel put off. I am currently running to be a member of the UK Youth Parliament and my main areas of interest are in education, mental health, youth involvement in politics and more recently the EU.

I am very much looking forward to voting for the first time in the assembly elections this May, although I am still undecided on which party I am going to vote for. I feel that young people in Northern Ireland are not consulted enough in the decision-making process and I would advocate the setting up of a youth assembly here to mirror the NI Assembly.

Tara Connolly, 18, Belfast

I am the chair of the Belfast City Council Youth Forum, as well as a peer advocate for children's rights with the Children's Law Centre. I am an executive committee member of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, and also a Young Global Advocate with the Irish Development Education Association in the Challenging the Crisis global campaign.

My interests lie primarily in the areas of rights of children and women, youth participation in politics, climate justice, and education. My campaigning in these areas has brought me to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Westminster, Stormont, and India! I feel that my passion for justice has stemmed both from the principles instilled in me by my personal upbringing and my education, both of which taught me the value of every individual.

Gerard Deeds, 19, Belfast

Image copyright Gerard Deeds

I have a passion for the arts and so have been a member of a drama school called the Rainbow Factory for over eight years. I find that the arts are great way for people young and old to express how we feel in a creative and talented way. I currently work at YouthAction NI as a trainee administration assistant and I am uncertain about what I'd like to do in the future because I haven't tried everything yet. I am interested in politics because as the next generation we have a duty to improve our society for the better. 

Gidion Dolo, 18, Belfast

Image copyright Gidion Dolo

I am a hip hop emcee in a group called A Crew with Loose Screws. I came to Northern Ireland in the late 90s as a little kid and I grew up in East Belfast. I have been a victim of racism and I have also seen the city and its people embrace cultural difference in Northern Ireland.

As hip hop emcee I have to talk to a lot of people so that I write songs that can change the community I live in. Over the years I have talked to people from different backgrounds for example drug dealers, people who are on the brew for more than 20 years, and also people who fell pregnant as teenagers and have to drop out of school to support their children. I tend to draw my influence from my family , friends and also my community. My family is love, my friends are loyalty and from my community I learn about the good, bad and ugly. From these three influences I have learned to respect others and also be a cool person with most of the people I meet.

Ruth Douglas, 18, Ballymena

Eighteen years ago, I was born in Ballymena and have lived there ever since. I'm currently applying for acting-related courses at various universities which is a bit unusual for someone raised in an engineering family. One of the only interesting facts I can offer about myself is that I voluntarily drive a Reliant Robin.

My Christian faith is an integral part of who I am. It influences both my actions and my opinions. It also prompts me to try to understand and empathise with people around me. Perhaps that is why I love to act: I enjoy figuring people out.

Caolan Faux, 23, Newtownbutler

I'm a youth worker specialising in mental health and masculinity using non-traditional approaches to challenge stigma and stereotype. For me, the outdoors and nature are the great grounding forces which allow me to work most effectively with people. Be that through bush craft or chasing adrenaline rushes in climbing, I always seek innovative ways to educate and work with people.

In rural Ireland I have found no shortage of stigma to challenge and yet our politicians are often quite happy to rely on tribal voting to see them elected to office. The problem is it works, and I question at what point actually serving the public becomes a priority for these public representatives.

Jonny Finlay, 22, Newtownabbey

My time at university (particularly my involvement in a debating society) has broadened my mind to an extent I never would have imagined possible, and has made me challenge every assumption I ever had. On the one hand, this has made me less certain about many things, but at the same time, it has meant that my opinions now have to be defensible to my harshest critic (myself).

I believe people of every age, background and political persuasion could benefit from such exposure to views which make them question their own, because much of contemporary politics is built on ignorance and/or pessimism about the motives and principles of others.

Matthew Finlay, 18, Magherafelt

I am a first-year journalism student at the North West Regional College (NWRC) of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. I am an avid Liverpool supporter and a self-confessed bookworm. A huge fan of The Walking Dead graphic novels and many of Stephen King's books, I constantly try to keep up to date with the daily news via the BBC website. While I am studying journalism, I aspire to write a novel at some point in the future.

Within politics, I tend to vote on behalf of the party that does the most for me as it gives me the belief that they are acting on the opinions of their voters.

Ciarán French, 18, Newtonards

I'm a trans masculine person with the pronouns of he/his living in Northern Ireland. Right now, I'm in my first year of a level three B-Tech course in TV and film production which I hope to be my starting point for a career path in writing and art. I have a strong interest in helping and working with the LGBT+ community by making speeches, writing, drawing, and making documentaries. I hope to create better voices for the typically unheard, ignored parts of the community because I am affiliated with these people in my everyday life, knowing all too well how much it can hold us back from being listened to and accepted.

Amy Garner, 19, Belfast

Image copyright Amy Garner

I went to an integrated secondary school. That is something that is really important to me and shapes my opinions. It also allows me to understand different cultures and also to value others' beliefs and opinions. I love the arts, drama, dance and singing - all this influence in my life and allows me to be creative and expressive. It lets me be who am I and I am very passionate about it.

Emma Gordon, 18, Lisburn

Image copyright Emma Gordon

I am studying history, politics and geography at A level, and I'm hoping to go on to study history and politics at Manchester Metropolitan University in September.

I'm excited about voting for the first time in the upcoming assembly elections and in the EU referendum as I want to see the theories I have learnt about put into practice. I think politics in Northern Ireland really needs to change. It needs to focus more on the future and less so on the past. Being involved in work with young people makes me want to make a change in politics so that more young people are involved in how our country is run.

Nina Graham, 18, Bangor

Image copyright Nina Graham

I am currently studying my final year of A levels in East Belfast. Next year I hope to study history at university in Scotland.  My interest in politics stems from my belief that it is vital that my generation takes an interest in the world around us. Northern Ireland has one of the largest demographics of young people in the UK, yet most young people would agree that we aren't represented, which leads me to ask why?

How is Northern Ireland to be progressive if its young people are not encouraged to stand up and speak, to help move our country forward? Something that is still needed, given our troubled past. Considering this, the political issues that interest me most are those involving women's rights and equality, links with Europe, and mental health. 

Megan Haste, 19, Maghaberry

Image copyright Megan Haste

I have spent my teenage years managing mental illness, and I now spend my spare time raising awareness re. young peoples' mental health. I am thoroughly disillusioned by Northern Irish politics and as such put a lot of energy into pushing for change, i.e. marriage equality, alterations to abortion laws. I am an ordinary person, but it won't stop me trying to achieve the extraordinary.

Kaity Hall, 22, Belfast

I'm an English graduate and an avid reader and writer. I enjoy writing opinion pieces, music reviews and book reviews and I'm a big fan of Caitlin Moran.

Lynsey Hill, 23, Belfast

Image copyright Lynsey Hill

I am currently studying for an MA Politics at Queen's University Belfast. My political influences within Northern Ireland derived from my upbringing in a relatively Unionist community, but since attending university, moving from a small town to the city, and travelling worldwide, I have broadened my political horizons and perspective on local issues with a more liberal outlook.

Tyler Hoey, 22, Ballymena

Image copyright Tyler Hoey

I was born and raised in a small Unionist/Loyalist estate in Ballymena called the Doury Road. I am very into my politics, I'm in two marching bands, I'm also in the Apprentice Boys. I'm studying for a level 3 diploma in business administration and I work full-time Monday to Friday. My favourite activities are marching, watching football and catching up with my friends.

Mark Irwin, 19, Bessbrook

I'm a history and politics student. I've been interested in history my entire life, fascinated from an early age by ancient Egypt. My interests in politics came later. The earliest bit of politics I can remember is 2007, when the Northern Ireland Assembly was relaunched triumphantly. I remember cutting out the page from the paper that listed all the new MLAs. For me this was all new, I knew nothing about the Good Friday Agreement, or the previous Stormont administrations, I didn't even know about the original Unionist parliament. But I seem to recall a great deal of optimism in NI.

As I continue in life, however, this optimism is falling. Continually Stormont is looked upon as a joke, a large sectarian body of people only interested in themselves and their communities and that's what I want to see change.

Gershom Kaoma, 20, Belfast

Image copyright Aidan McManus

I was born in Dagenham, Essex and lived there for two years before my family and I moved back to Zambia in Africa. After spending six years in Zambia my mother got a job in Ballyclare. I attended Ballyclare High until I was 15 and then moved to Ballyclare Secondary School where I studied business studies as well as a Level 2 and a Level 3 Diploma in sports coaching.

I work in Cruise Fashion in Victoria Square and love my job. I really enjoy the fashion and design aspect of retail as well as communication with the customers and my clients on a day-to-day basis. It is something I will definitely look into to progress in.

I also have the intention of drawing attention to racism in Northern Ireland. It is something that can be seen as a touchy subject that people would shy away from - but it is something that is still happening. Although times have changed and we seem to be getting with the times, it still happens.

Leo Kamutsi, 19, Belfast

Image copyright Leo Kamutsi

I am originally from Zimbabwe with ties to South Africa. I was raised in London before moving to Belfast where I spent the lion's share of my adolescence, I have fully embraced all the cultures I grew up in, whether they be African, English or Northern Irish/Irish, so much so that they have shaped me as a person. My day-to-day interactions with these people of different cultures have strongly influenced my socio-political views. How I see the world in general and these factors as well as my own life experiences have inspired my music.

Daniel Leeming, 18, Carrickfergus

Image copyright Daniel Leeming

I went to integrated nursery, primary and secondary schools so integration is something that runs through my blood, it makes me the fair person that I am. I love anything technological, be that new phones or new pieces of military hardware, it's something I'm passionate about. Politics have always interested me. I make my political choices and opinions by using a logical and thought out process.

Gary Lindsay, 19, Newtownabbey

I attended Hazelwood Integrated College, a school which helped shape and support me throughout my education. Going to an integrated school I was put into contact with people from Catholic backgrounds from an early age. This helped make me an anti-sectarian.  I believe that in Northern Ireland we need to overcome the divisions of the past in order to move forward and give the people of NI something that they can be proud off.

I support grassroots community action against cutbacks, fracking and sectarianism. I am active in several organisations which are trying to make NI better for normal working people. Coming from a working-class area I am seeing first hand the impact cuts have. Having learning difficulties, I find the cuts to education unacceptable. 

Niamh Lundy, 19, Belfast

I'm a misfit and a Queen's University English scholar, Belfast born and bred. "High Priestess Resurrected" blogger currently recovering from anorexia nervosa. I believe in communism, feminism, vegetarianism, tattooism and tarot reading. I follow the religion of Morrissey. "Don't judge a book by its cover," is my mantra; despite the punk rock hair and Gothica clothing, I'm actually a classically trained singer. Inspired by Albert Camus, Sylvia Plath and WB Yeats. For too long the eccentric's voice has been silenced in the media. Now is the time for the outsiders to be heard.

Rebecca Magee, 18, Enniskillen

I live in a rural area in County Fermanagh. I am currently completing my A levels and hoping to find a summer job to earn some much needed cash. In the future, I would like to go into the area of youth work or media as I have regularly volunteered with local charities and think I have something to offer. I also volunteer in my local toddler and parent group and have raised money for local charities with the National Citizen Service.

I see myself as an environmentalist. I believe that we hold a deep responsibility to nature and the government has a major role to play in this. Living in such a beautiful country, I feel it is all our duty to protect it and being an avid beekeeper and stand-up paddle boarder I get to experience the beautiful land from different angles.

Robert Magee, 23, Belfast

The main issue that influences me is education in Northern Ireland. Despite Northern Ireland being in a relatively peaceful state, our education system still promotes division with the majority of our young people culturally and religiously segregated. I had the fortunate opportunity to attend one of Northern Ireland's small number of integrated schools which changed my life and opened many opportunities, such as working in the United States, that I would not have had otherwise. 

I believe that teaching our children together is key to promoting a truly shared future and integrated education provides a foundation for peace and reconciliation that is unrivalled. I'm also very interested in issues such as youth unemployment in Northern Ireland, especially in East Belfast where I'm from. 

Uroosa Mahmood, 21, Belfast

Image copyright Uroosa Mahmood

I am in second year of studying biomedical science at Ulster University and hope to continue on and complete a masters in America. I partake in extra-curricular activities such as rugby, ISOC (Islamic society) and also enjoy volunteering with St Johns Ambulance in my spare time. This also allows me to keep on top of my first aid skills.

I personally do not have a lot of knowledge in politics but would like to. I feel that politicians need to engage more with younger people and explain better the issues they are going to tackle but also listen to what we would like and take the suggestions into consideration. A topic that I feel strongly about is equality.

Amy Marshall, 22, Dungannon

Image copyright Amy Marshall

I am currently completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen.  I hope to graduate in June with an MA in history and legal studies. I have always had an interest in politics and studied British and American politics for A level. During my time in Scotland I have continued to keep a close eye on local and national politics.

At university I volunteer as a transcriber for the Special Collections Centre in the Sir Duncan Rice Library. I enjoy working with archives and hope to begin my masters in public history and cultural heritage at Trinity College Dublin in September. I also enjoy public speaking and I have achieved my speech and drama grade eight.

Collette McAllister, 20, Glenravel

Image copyright Collette McAllister

I am in my second year studying law with politics at Queen's University, Belfast. I am very interested in politics, active in my second consecutive year as an elected councillor on QUB Student's Union Council and I am the women's officer elect for NUS-USI. Alongside this, I am involved in local party politics as the youth representative in my area.

I enjoying judging and watching sheepdog trials and being home in the country!

Leah McCaul, 20, Ballyclare

I have a passion to see changes in the political system for young people. Having been a young person brought up in care, I can see many failures in the system for care experienced young people and care leavers. My passion is to campaign for these changes to come about so that every care experienced young person will have the quality of life that they deserve to have and have access to services that will enable them to reach their full potential.

My interests include watching crime detective programs, travelling, playing musical instruments and boxing. I took up boxing as a potential cure for some of the insecurity I experienced growing up in care. I did find a cure in it and actually found it very therapeutic. My first White Collar fight was on 1 April.

Conor McGinn, 21, Belfast

I am in my final year studying history at Queen's University Belfast. For two years I have worked for my university's Widening Participation Unit which aims to remove barriers for young people pursuing higher education. I work part-time as a history tutor. I am currently training to become a mentor for an NGO that works with young people. I am passionate about education and believe students should be given more choice in their education and that more needs to be done to help pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Last summer I interned for the US Department of Education in Washington DC.

I believe that politics in Northern Ireland should be less tribal, so that people vote based on the future they want and not just because of the community they come from.

Peter McGoran, 23, Belfast

I am a full-time barista and an occasional writer. As a former English literature student, my political opinions have largely been shaped by the cuts to education and cuts to funding for the arts which have seriously affected myself and other young people in my region. More broadly, I, like almost everyone in Northern Ireland, have major concerns about the effectiveness of the current Northern Ireland government and its ability to deliver peace and prosperity to the region.

Holly McGrory, 18, Lisburn

Image copyright Holly McGrory

I love the cinema and going on road trips to anywhere. Since finishing A levels last year I have completed a finance and administration internship with YouthAction NI and I'm currently on the hunt for a job. My main hobby is performing arts so if I'm not at home I'll be found in Rainbow Factory theatre, either helping out with front-of-house duties or on the stage.

Josh Morrison, 18, County Antrim

I am a first year law and politics student at Queens University Belfast. Politics became apparent to me from a very young age, growing up in the political battleground of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Throughout my life, I've watched my country emerge from war into peace, a phenomena that is very much an on-going process and not a singular event. My main political interests are the European Union, integrated education in Northern Ireland and judicial review. I'm a professional barista but as much as I love coffee my dream job is to practice law as a barrister. 

Shona Morrison, 23, County Fermanagh

Image copyright Shona Morrison

I am in my second year at Queen's University Belfast where I study politics and philosophy. I write an opinion column in a local newspaper which is great for venting frustration as well as drawing attention to overlooked issues and perspectives.

Despite studying politics and getting excited when my polling card arrives, I am increasingly disenfranchised. The younger generation is too often ignored until politicians have no option other than to listen. I don't know if you can blame politicians themselves: with most being middle-aged, middle-class and male, they cannot represent the young voice as well as a younger politician would. Living in a rural area means I'm constantly aware of issues such as infrastructure, public transport, healthcare and education. The big cities are about 80 miles away and everything seems to be based in them. Those of us living in the back of beyond often miss out on opportunities because they're so inaccessible.

Melissa Morton, 23, Banbridge

I am a recent journalism graduate currently working as a waitress until I find my first graduate job. I am very proud to be from Northern Ireland and believe it is one of the best and most beautiful places to live. However, I believe there is much more to be done to make our little country stand out, as I would like to see the government do more to help the health sector as well as pass laws on gay marriage. This year I am looking forward to see how our country could change in both the May elections and the EU referendum.

Laura Murphy, 23, Londonderry

Image copyright Laura Murphy

When I was 19 and my mum got ill, I fostered my 11-year-old brother and sister (they are twins) and have been their main carer ever since. Looking after them keeps me busy, but I am otherwise unemployed. I would love a job in youth work or counselling. I love watching Hollyoaks and my favourite singer is Katy Perry.

Andrew Newell, 18, Fintona

I find the world of politics fascinating. What intrigues me is its continually evolving nature and how virtually every decision affects us or someone close to us. My views are shaped by my interest in history and the Christian values I uphold. Moreover, I am a Unionist and I believe that by being part of the UK, Northern Ireland is in the best position to prosper. Through the combination of being a Unionist, a Christian and a keen historian, I think it is fair to say that I have been moulded into having traditional views on politics and our world as a whole. Whilst I uphold my views strongly, I have a genuine interest in the views of others and am willing to listen, understand and respect.

Nicole Parkinson-Kelly, 18, Banbridge

Image copyright Nicole

I am an A level student at Banbridge Academy, studying English literature, history and business studies. My interest in politics was sparked through the National Citizen Service. I have rose from being a participant to a leader and alumni of the youth programme, and sat on the National Youth Board. These experiences gave me the confidence, the skills and the opportunity to visit 10 Downing Street and have breakfast with my local MP at Westminster. Since then I have been involved in the Rotary Youth Leadership Development Competition where I was selected to be on a team visiting Stormont, the Dail and the European Parliament. Besides these amazing experiences that I have been lucky to have, I also enjoy the little things in life such as walking my dogs in fields and forests, and reading novels by Nicholas Sparks, Becca Fitzpatrick and Lauren Kate.

Olivia Potter-Hughes, 20, Belfast

Image copyright Olivia Potter-Hughes

I am studying A-level politics part-time at Belfast Metropolitan College. I am a member of my student council and the current elected student governor. I hope to go on to study politics at Queen's University next year. I enjoy working with my student union to engage with other young people. I was elected to National Union of Student in Northern Ireland's Women's Committee, which campaigns for women's rights.

I believe that the political situation in Northern Ireland is utterly disengaged and unrepresentative of the majority of young people who live here. I find it completely unacceptable that we live in a society that continues to further ingrain sectarianism, homophobia and sexism within our society. I feel that our government makes little to no effort to engage with and educate young people politically, and that it is our obligation to prove that we do in fact care about our community by using our right to vote.

TJ Quinn, 20, Moneyglass

Image copyright TJ Quinn

I attended an integrated secondary school which allowed me to understand other cultures within Northern Ireland and without that experience I would not have made the same friendships and relationships that I have today. The experience also allowed me to have a positive outlook on the future of Northern Ireland's political basis by trusting in the new generation of politicians.

As a student journalist, I hope to help my own age group by including some of Northern Ireland's own problems in my works. This includes mental health with young people, housing for students, especially in Belfast, and last but not least drug and alcohol problems with young people. My interests are mainly music and film as I've always been the quizmaster on anything in those two categories.

Leah Rea, 22, Newtownabbey

I am in my final year reading Law at Queen's University, Belfast. I am an alumna of the Study USA scholarship 2014/2015 at Coe College IA, where I majored in business with minors in political science and PR - and joined a sorority! Studying abroad provided me with exciting challenges and opportunities, and memories of new friends and cultural adventures.

Having attended an integrated school (Belfast Royal Academy), I believe education is the means to reconciliation in NI. I also believe in devolution and self-governance.

Much to the chagrin of my friends, I'm rather the rights advocate and activist. I enjoy volunteering, blogging and being involved in student organisations. I am an aspiring solicitor and would like to specialise in public law, particularly in human rights.

Naomi Reading, 19, Carrickfergus

Image copyright Naomi Reading

I am studying English literature and geography at A level over one year with the hope of studying English at university.

I'm very passionate about politics and I'm excited to vote for the first time in the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly Elections and in the EU referendum; putting my theories into use. Politics in this country need to change; less looking through the green and orange tinted glasses of the past and more looking into the future. I believe the way to do this is through our youth and I'm excited and happy to get involved.

Emma Taylor, 22, Comber

Image copyright Emma Taylor

I'm a masters research student in drama at University of Ulster Magee, although I'm based in Comber, just outside Belfast. I'm an ex-student of Grosvenor Grammar School and currently I'm working part-time in Holland and Barrett to help pay my way through my masters. Since I'm an arts student, I'm passionate about the promotion of the arts as a tool for social change and education; I do feel it's an under-used resource in Northern Ireland, and a vital tool to help tackle racism, sexism and sectarianism. This all sounds very idealistic, but I've seen first-hand the differences that the arts can make in people's lives.

I do love living in Northern Ireland, but I admit I'm a little frustrated at the constant "us-and-them" dialogue in our politics, especially when I see it as unrepresentative of the majority of the young people's opinions.

Eimear Willis, 21, Derry

Image copyright Eimear Willis

I'm a sound engineer and an avid campaigner for human rights, specifically LGBT+ rights. As part of the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland I feel incredibly let down by our current political leaders who are showing no solidarity with young people nor the LGBT+ community.

I dedicate most of my time organising Foyle Pride Festival, which is totally voluntary. I also work two jobs so that myself and my girlfriend can live in our own place. Someday I hope to live in a progressive country where people can feel comfortable to be who they want and do what they want without question, and I'd like that place to be Northern Ireland.

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