A FIVEMILETOWN teenager has been selected 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) - was elected to the role last week.

He hopes that within his new role, he will 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 was for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat, and as the seat was uncontested, he was elected by default.

"It's a bittersweet victory, given the effort I put into  the posters and many speeches across both ERGS sites," Owen said, commenting on his victory.

"However, I am happy, and I am keen to start my duties and start to engage with our local politicians.

"I will be sure to keep my manifesto promises," Owen added.

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

"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.

"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.

"The role of MYP will give me the chance to further build on my political experience.

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

On the election trail, 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 certainly wish to do something about that."