President pays tribute to Offaly Foróige Leaders

Foróige Leaders from Offaly have been honoured by President Michael D Higgins as part of the charity’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

Foróige Leaders from Offaly have been honoured by President Michael D Higgins as part of the charity’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

The Offaly group were in attendance at the 42nd Annual Foróige Leaders’ Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dublin. Speaking at the event President Higgins remarked, “In my inaugural speech, I spoke of the importance of active citizenship and I believe that the value of volunteerism in any community should be recognised for the life enhancing good it does in just about every corner of our island.”

Paying tribute to the organisation as a whole, President Higgins continued, “So much of what Foróige does nurtures the curious mind, prepares it for adult life, and also provides young people with valuable skill sets to meet challenges. The range of services and opportunities you provide are hugely impressive by any standard including a number of firsts; the first organisation to provide general youth work services in disadvantaged areas; for example, working with An Garda Siochána to roll out one of the first Garda Youth Diversion Projects; Drug and Alcohol Prevention Projects; bringing the internationally proven one to one mentoring programme ‘Big Brothers, Big Sisters’ to Ireland.”

The conference heard inspirational and sometimes moving accounts from people associated with Foróige during each of the last six decades. Representing the 1990s was Westlife Star Kian Egan from Sligo. Kian reminisced on his time in Merville Foróige Club.

“I joined Foróige when I was 12. Foróige was just what we did. When we came to an age that we could join the Foróige Club we were delighted. It was a great facility for the young people of the community. I’m sure it still is. It gave us something to focus our energies on.

“I can’t really imagine those years without the Foróige Club. It made up a big chunk of my life. Music and performing were huge in our club. We used to enter ‘The Tops of Foróige’ variety show competitions. I was very involved in the production of the shows. You could say it’s where I learned my trade. Even in those days I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life. I grew up a lot during my time in Foróige, especially when I was elected our club’s chairperson. It was a great exercise in leadership.”

60 years ago the first ever Foróige Youth Club was established in Kilkenny. Since that day, March 14, 1952, the charity has mushroomed. It is now Ireland’s leading and largest youth organisation working with almost 57,000 young people and 5,125 adult volunteers annually, through a network of 534 youth clubs, 126 targeted projects and national programmes such as Entrepreneurship and Leadership.