Yesterday I was delighted, as High Sheriff , to welcome Prince William and Kate Middleton to YouthAction’s purpose built youth facility in College Square North, Belfast. YouthAction Northern Ireland has a 65 year history of making a significant difference to the lives of young people, As a regional voluntary youth organisation, it works with young people aged 10-25 years, supporting them to be active and equal citizens whose voices are heard, respected and valued.
YouthAction particularly targets those living in areas of social and economic disadvantage;those not involved in traditional opportunities; and those deemed to be vulnerable. Each year the organisation improves the life chances of over 6,000 young people by providing new opportunities, building transferable skills, providing qualifications and realising ther potential.. It does this through volunteering action, performing arts, apprenticeships, mentoring, accredited training and leadership projects.
The Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast Dame Mary Peters DBE presented:- The High Sheriff for the County Borough of Belfast, Councillor Dr Ian Adamson OBE, Mrs K Adamson, Member of Parliament for South Belfast, Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA, Ms Olivia Nugent (Dr McDonnell’s wife), First Minister of Northern Ireland, The Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA, Minister, Department for Employment and Learning Mr Danny Kennedy MLA who presented:- Mrs Karen Kennedy, Permanent Secretary, Department for Employment and Learning Mr Alan Shannon, Director of Families and Communities, Department of Education Ms Linda Wilson, President, YouthAction, Northern Ireland the Hon Shane O’Neill who presented:-Director, YouthAction, Northern Ireland Ms June Trimble MBE, Young Apprentice, YouthAction, Northern Ireland Mr David McKendry,Young Apprentice, YouthAction, Northern Ireland Miss Laura Marley.
YouthAction’s Rainbow Factory of Performing Arts then gave three excerpts for the Prince and his beautiful fiancée:- ”Be careful what you wish for”, a musical based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, written and performed by 30 young people in collaboration with a team of professional musical artists; ”Beautiful Thing” ,an urban fairytale written by Jonathan Harvey; and ”Fame the Musical”, a stage based musical based on the 1980 musical film Fame, about students at New York’s High School of Performing Arts. Finally Prince William awarded Certificates to the year’s graduates.
I took the opportunity of speaking to The Lord O’Neill, who recognised me as the Unionist with an appreciation of the Gaelic Language and the history of his family. He had been President of YouthAction Northern Ireland for over 40 years until his son Shane took over the role in 2007. He joked that people kept asking him why an O’Neill could not be fluent in Irish. He had tried over the years,of course but fluency had eluded him. I said that I had welcomed the Prince and Kate in Gaelic, English and Ullans. I directed him to the Ultach Trust, of which I had been a founder member and told him of the Ullans Academy. Altogether a most pleasant conversation. And suddenly it was all over.