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Address by the Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny TD, to the Young Social Innovators (YSI) Dogpatch Labs, 20 January 2016

Good morning.

I’m delighted to be here with you, our young social innovators. Thank you Sister Stan and Rachel Collier for inviting me. This is a special day for you all marking the start of a new three year partnership between our young social innovators and Ulster bank.

I’m also delighted to see Paul Stanley of Ulster Bank joining us this morning. And indeed Baroness Thornton, CEO of the UK’s Young Foundation. I’d also like to give a very special mention to the students of Largy College. We are delighted to have you with us. You are very welcome.

I’m sure that all of you will agree that the collaborative and caring undertakings of our young social innovators make for a deepening and enriching of the relationship between the communities on these islands and indeed between all the peoples of the island themselves. And with their decision to support that work, Ulster bank is making all the difference to the ambition, the impact and the social reach of these fine young people.

Every one of them, every one of you, is determined not just to make the difference but to be the difference in your community.

In these days of endless comment, of instant reaction - be it on twitter, snapchat or facebook - it is good to see so many of you reflecting on what needs to be done, on what changes must be made, and having done so, setting about making it happen. I ask you to go on doing so with joy. And as you do, always remember that something that might seem minuscule to you can make a monumental difference to the lives and future of another person.

This is not only a huge opportunity, it is also a great responsibility. Two important aspects of our shared lives that every one of you here has taken to heart in theory and in practice.

But the government has not left you alone in your endeavours. In 2015 alone we provided €3 million for Volunteerism. State funding of these organisations is designed to strengthen and foster volunteerism in Ireland, to help build a support structure for such activity in local communities.

But perhaps the ultimate ‘support structure’ is the partnership, the vital partnership, between the public and private sectors as we see here today in your collaboration with Ulster bank. The enthusiasm, ingenuity and goodwill of all our innovators and all who support them and facilitate them bode well for the future of our communities, our environment and our country.

Last year, as you know, we had a referendum on equal marriage. I’m sure the resounding YES must have been music to the ears of the students of Largy College in Clones who were the overall Young Social Innovator winners for 2015. Your work to promote the dignity and rights inherent in gay and lesbian issues has been magnificent. It shows what a small group of people can do when they put their collective mind to it.

This sense of community and the collective is evidenced in the men and women who are joining us today from the various embassies as representatives of their countries. I know that our Young Social Innovators have inspired similar initiatives in countries such as Norway, Canada and Zambia, and indeed further afield. In the last year, at least three groups from South Korea have come to Ireland to examine our Transition Year system. They were fascinated by the Young Social Innovators programme. So much so that the annual YSI gathering at City West in 2015 was filmed and broadcast on state television in South Korea last autumn.

Perhaps at home we do not broadcast enough how proud we are of all you do, of all you give and of all you achieve. We say mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sé. Perhaps we should say mol an óige... and stand well back as they set out to change their world.

Such change is crucial to the work of Comhairle na nÓg, which as you know is the national structure for children and young people to have a voice in local and national decision-making. I’m delighted to say that funding of €35,000 has been awarded towards this work.

In the year we are commemorating all aspects of 1916, Young Social Innovators reminds us of the power and presence of our young people in our modern republic. In your work, your attitude, your ambition.... today you are our patriots, you put your country first. Every one of you here is a credit to your parents, your families, your schools and of course to yourselves.

You are blessed too in your mentors. There are few people, if anyone, who makes the difference that Sister Stan does.

So enjoy your day, I know you will make the most of this wonderful opportunity with Ulster Bank.

Be bold. Be brave. And, above all, be there.