Young people meet MLAs at the All Party Group to discuss Climate Action

By | Environment, Environment, General, News, Newsroom

Young environmental campaigners are calling on the Stormont Executive to fully acknowledge the reality of climate change and to take action to tackle it.

A delegation of youth campaign groups will meet the All Party Group on Climate Action on Wednesday (August 19) to voice their concerns following comments from Environment Minister Edwin Poots last month rejecting the term ‘climate crisis’.

The delegation is made up of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum’s Environmental Climate Group, the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) Climate Panel and the Youth Climate Association NI.

Andra Vladu, from NIYF’s Environmental Climate Group said: “Young people in Northern Ireland and across the globe want a safe future. The science is clear on the climate and ecological crises facing my and future generations. We want to see that our government and politicians fully acknowledge these crises and that their actions rise up to the challenges of addressing them.”

NIYF Director Chris Quinn said: “Young people have told us that they are increasingly concerned about climate change.  Despite lockdown they have continued to campaign on these issues and it’s critical that our decision makers listen to what young people are telling them.  Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, one of the biggest issues facing young people’s future was climate change, it is important that this remains high on the decision makers’ agenda”.

Last month Mr Poots said that climate crisis language “is something my department do not accept, and they do not believe that this is appropriate language”.  He added that “introducing legislation in the next three months to tackle climate change is an impossible timeframe”.

The Minister later accepted there was a climate crisis following an apology and admission by Denis McMahon, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) that the department ‘got it wrong’.


Campaign launched to make misogyny a hate crime

By | General, News, Newsroom

Three major councils are backing a campaign to end sexual harassment against women in Northern Ireland.

Belfast, City Council, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council voted on a motion by the Raise Your Voice Project to consider misogyny as a hate crime.

A public awareness poster campaign in these council facilities will kick off this month highlighting the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

In addition, the councils will push for legislative change by writing to Judge Desmond Marrinan to request he classifies misogyny as a hate crime as part of his ongoing independent review of hate crime laws in Northern Ireland.

Karen Sweeney from the Women’s Support Network and Raise Your Voice said: “We would like to pay tribute to Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh and Ards and North Down councils for recognising misogyny as an issue that affects the lives of women, girls and non-binary people across Northern Ireland. They are leading the way for safer communities. We will be urging other councils to support our campaign to make misogyny a hate crime.”

The full motion supported by each council for states: “This Council recognises the impact of misogyny and transmisogyny on those affected by it, as well as the role these attitudes play in a variety of crimes, including harassment, assault, sexual assault and hate crimes, and on the career choices and personal lives of women, girls and non-binary people.

“The Council supports the inclusion of misogyny as a standalone offence and as a category of hate crime, recognising crimes targeted at women including transwomen as hate crimes based on misogyny, and will write a letter to that effect to Judge Desmond Marrinan as part of his ongoing review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland.

“The Council supports also the Raise Your Voice Project, which tackles sexual harassment and sexual violence across Northern Ireland by placing posters in all Council properties to raise awareness of the project.”

Raise Your Voice is led by the Women’s Resource & Development Agency (WRDA) in partnership with Women’s Support Network (WSN), Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network (NIRWN) and Reclaim the Agenda. It includes a broad and diverse steering group to ensure that the work is inclusive and far-reaching. It is funded by Rosa UK Fund for Women & Girls under their Justice & Equality Fund and Times Up UK.

The project plans to have its motion accepted by further councils in Northern Ireland. Those interested in promoting the campaign in their own area can email

To find out more about Raise Your Voice’s work go to:


Belfast company provides digital skills to people affected by pandemic

By | Business, General, News, Newsroom

A Belfast recruitment company has helped people from disadvantaged communities find jobs and learn vital digital skills during the Covid-19 crisis.

Graffiti Recruitment based at Innovation Factory on the Springfield Road helped more than 70 people into employment and trained 120 digital champions to enable their wider community to get online during the pandemic.

Managing Director Julie McGrath recognised that the lockdown and its aftermath was having a devastating impact on people in deprived areas who had little access to digital services.

She said: “We are bringing digital skills to those most at need, helping people complete online CVs to improve their employability and our digital champions are making a massive difference to the community, helping us to reach those that most need it. They are assisting vulnerable people in accessing social media and online foodbank services, downloading apps or setting up new devices.”

So far, the team at Graffiti has worked with individuals and groups such as St Peter’s Youth Club, Corpus Christi Youth Club, Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum and Let Youth Lead to make their communities more digitally aware.

Among those helped to find employment was West Belfast man, Sean McKeever, who completed the CV and Cover letter workshop with Graffiti Recruitment after being made redundant at the end of April.

He said: “I had been working as a barman since I left school 15 years ago and I never needed a CV as other family members worked in the bar too. I learned how to highlight my skills showing qualities that are important to all employers such as digital skills and communication and how to properly format a CV, so it looks professional. I’m pleased to say that I am now working as a delivery driver and having this information helped me through the online application process.”

Joseph McKeating from Ardoyne is using the skills gained from attending courses run by Graffiti Recruitment at Innovation Factory to help others. Joseph and his fellow Ardoyne man Eamonn Marley are among 30 digital champions working with CCRF (Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum) using the skills they have acquired to pass on to the community.

He said: “With my new digital skills I managed to secure a new part time job immediately but I’m now down to the interviews stages with two other organisations – Northern Ireland Fire Service and the Irish Army. I never thought I would be able to have a job like that as it was always just a dream but completing these courses has improved my confidence and raised my ambitions.”

Later this month CCRF will launch a Digital Drop-in Centre to help more people searching for jobs, applying for benefits and provide access to home schooling in one of Northern Ireland’s most deprived areas.

Fiona Hamilton, a Youth Worker with CCRF, is one of those behind setting up this new community hub. “Attending the Digital Champion workshops has helped our organisation look at other ways we can support our community. With a lot of services moved online we are setting up workshops and a digital drop-in centre supported by our digital champions. The aim is to help people get online and improve their digital skills. Hopefully, we will be able to create more digital champions within the community and it will have a knock-on effect with improved digital confidence overall,” she said

Shane Smith, Community Engagement Manager at Innovation Factory, said Graffiti Recruitment provided a vital service at the height of lockdown and is continuing to work to bridge the digital divide.

“Covid-19 really exposed the digital skills gap in the community. Graffiti acted quickly to address the new reality, providing online digital services for beginners and helping to tackle loneliness and isolation felt by hundreds of vulnerable people,” he said.

Innovation Factory is owned by Belfast City Council and operated on their behalf by Oxford Innovation. The £9.1m business hub was funded by Belfast City Council and Invest NI with support from the European Regional Development Fund.

Customers include a range of start-ups and growing businesses in a variety of sectors including digital services, creative industries, business services, financial services and research and development.

Graffiti Recruitment is involved in the ‘Make it Click’ project run by the Good Things Foundation, funded and supported by and BT Skills For Tomorrow to promote digital inclusion.

It is also working with Business in the Community to deliver programmes in association with Age NI to improve skills for those over 50. These will include an introduction to social media and how to find jobs through social media.

The company is continuing to offer free assisted digital skills training on a range of subjects which will help people get online and make the most of the digital tools modern life increasingly depends on. For more information call 0330 2233 047.

For more information on the Innovation Factory visit:


Young campaigners meet Minister to demand mental health reform

By | General, News, Newsroom

Young campaigners have held a Zoom meeting with Health Minister Robin Swann to call for urgent action to create a mental health strategy for Northern Ireland.

Members of the Elephant in the Room (EITR) campaign group wappeared before the Executive Work Group on Mental Wellbeing, Resilience and Suicide Prevention on July 29 to demand wide-ranging mental health reform.

John Jo McGrady, Chairperson of Belfast Youth Forum, has seen many of his close friends suffer from the effects of poor mental health and the lack of support to deal with the problem.

He called on the Executive to address the crisis: “The time for change is now. Mental health has been overlooked for too long. This meeting gives us a genuine opportunity to meet with the full Executive with all departments represented to give practical and effective solutions.”

Niamh Mallaghan, a member of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum Executive Committee, said: “This campaign gives young people the opportunity to make their voices heard at the highest level to make the changes needed to end the misery of poor mental health, self-harm and suicide.”

Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle added: “I support the need for the Northern Ireland Executive to prioritise and deliver improved mental health and wellbeing provision for our society.  I asked the Health Minister to meet with young people from the Elephant In The Room campaign and to allocate officials and resources at his disposal to support the delivery of the substantive proposals made by this youth-led campaign.”

Back in 2017, the Elephant in the Room group, set up by Belfast City Council Youth Forum and the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, produced the first research report created by young people for young people.   A total of 1,117 young people participated in the research.

The report called on the Executive to:

  • Support the creation of a youth-led, government backed mental health campaign, challenging the culture of silence and negative stigma
  • Work with young people to develop a new and positive language around mental health by creating a ‘mental health dictionary’ which could be used as part of a mental health curriculum programme.
  • Create a compulsory curriculum programme for all schools and colleges on mental health and wellbeing that helps to raise awareness and challenge stigma and allows young people to access consistent mental health information.
  • Create a website for young people designed by young people to provide mental health information, support and raise awareness and challenge stigma.