15-year-old George McElhinney is a Year 11 student at Dominican College in Portstewart and is essentially an elected lobbyist for young people.
George explained: “I don’t have a vote, but it’s my job to hear young people’s concerns and relay them to politicians.
“I also have a pretty wide reach, so if more direct action such as strikes or rallies are required, that’s partly my job too.”
George’s election campaign began in December last year with voting taking place in February.
Only young people are allowed to cast their votes in the Youth Parliament election with voting online this year due to Covid.
“Regardless, I seem to have pretty broad support throughout the area, and if any young people need something brought up, they’re very welcome to come talk to me” added George.
“In terms of ideology, I’d consider myself a libertarian socialist, basically I’m a big fan of democracy and want it to be extended to the workplace, things like worker cooperatives etc. and since I’m a young person that also means school too.
“It’s exceptionally important that young people are provided with a say in their education, it’s meant to be designed for us, so we should have a say in how it works. I’m also in support of a shift away from note taking and writing and a move towards more practical methods of learning. School has become like an office job, except we’re not getting paid!
“Climate change is also an extremely important issue to me, since its going to affect my generation the most.”
George said that he believes most other young people think like him on this issue and are “tired of the politicians messing about with slow progress and no plans”.
“Our planet has been irreversibly damaged already, and we can’t wait any longer, we had an opportunity to take things slow 20 years ago and we didn’t use it, so now we have to do things the hard way.
“I think in general that the world we live in has been designed by adults, with little consideration for young people.
“I have a lot of things planned for the next two years, I already have meetings lined up with Claire Sugden, MLA for East Londonderry/Derry, and Gregory Campbell, MP for the area.
“Young people want change, and I intend to get it, whether that’s through open dialogue and negotiation, as I’d prefer. or through strike action.”