Many young people in the border region were unable, either because of their age or where they lived, to vote in the referendum of June 2016 on the UK’s decision to leave or remain in the EU. Yet it is precisely this section of the population whose lives will be affected for the longest period of time by the outcome of that referendum decision. As part of its ‘Border Compass’ project, ICBAN is taking an innovative and immersive approach to give young people a voice on the big talking points of the day, including Brexit.

The Youthful Voices part of the project will be led by Verbal Arts and is targeted at young people aged 14-17 years of age, drawn equally from both sides of the border, from both main traditions and from other community identities. Speaking about the project, Andy Hallewell, Innovation Officer at ICBAN explained, “The basic idea is to use the inspirational words of writers from across the world, to light up and examine some of the big issues that impact young people’s lives. To support the development of community cohesion and promote cross-border reconciliation, the programme will purposefully examine and discuss a range of contemporary and topical issues; What is Community?, Sectarianism, Racism and Xenophobia, Prejudice and Discrimination, BREXIT, and Equal Opportunities.

“The project provides opportunities to meet and socialise with young people from the ‘opposite’ side of the border – people who might never otherwise meet – whilst improving skills and confidences. Weekly 1 hour sessions will be held during school time in schools before all groups are brought together in a residential setting. Participation provides the means to enhance a CV or record of achievement, with the added option of progressing to an accredited qualification at Open College Network Level 3.”

As the Border Compass reaches its conclusion in autumn 2018, the young participants will also be invited to participate in a short series of Workshops with elected representatives from the ICBAN Management Board and other adult project participants. Mr Hallewell added that the initiative is designed to encourage young people to play a more meaningful role in future statutory processes, and help develop long-term sustainable answers to the key questions of our time. “It all should be fun and challenging and it is intended that the final key messages which emerge will be communicated to the powers that be, in Dublin, Belfast, London and Brussels”, he said.

Recruitment is currently underway and ICBAN plan to launch the project after Easter 2018 in various schools across the border region.

The Border Compass project has been funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund.