A FIVEMILETOWN teenager is vying to represent fellow young people as a Member of Youth Parliament (MYP). 

17-year-old Owen McKinley - a sixth-form student at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School (ERGS) - is hoping to be elected to the role to raise awareness of issues, including the cost-of-living crisis and underage vaping. 

The NI Youth Parliament is a democratically-elected and non-party political programme mirroring the Northern Ireland Assembly, with representatives elected within their respective constituencies. 

Owen is fighting for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat, which hasn't seen representation for almost two years. Voting among young people is currently under way. 

"I have seen that there are a lot of issues that young people face that aren't talked about enough," Owen said, speaking of his inspiration to run as a MYP.

"This hasn't been helped by the fact that for the last term, there was no candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Hopefully I can change that."

He continued: "I feel I would be a good point of contact for my fellow young people to get in touch with those in power."

As well as studying politics and economics at AS-Level, Owen also works part-time in the office of local UUP MLA, Tom Elliot.

In addition, he has enjoyed involvement with NI Youth Voice, where he has experienced the workings of both the local council and Stormont. 

"I feel I would be a good fit, and the role of MYP would give me the chance to further build on my political experience," Owen added.

"I definitely have political aspirations. I feel that, as a politician, you can really make a difference."

In advance of the election, Owen addressed each of the year groups within ERGS, where he outlined some of the issues he hopes to address, if elected. 

"There are a number of issues facing young people that I would hope to raise," he explained.

"For one, there is a growing epidemic of underage vaping, and this is something I have personally seen. As well as health concerns, this has knock-on impacts such as litter.

"I also feel there isn't enough talk about how the cost of living crisis is impacting young people.

"In these tough financial times, young people are given responsibilities to buy certain things for themselves 

"I know a lot of young people who are expected to buy all their clothes through part-time work. They are on minimum wage, which is only £5.28.

"People must realise that young people aren't immune from the cost of living crisis."

Owen concluded: "It's also significant to me how Fermanagh and South Tyrone isn't represented in Westminster through an actual MP, and I would certainly wish to do something about that."