A FIVEMILETOWN teenager has been recognised for his efforts in championing his peers through politics. 

Owen McKinley, 17, was this year elected as a Member of Youth Parliament, which is a democratically-elected and non-party political programme mirroring the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

The (Enniskillen Royal Grammar School) ERGS student currently represents young people within the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency.

He has now been shortlisted as a Youth Community Champion in the upcoming Impartial Reporter Community Champion Awards, in association with Encirc.

"I didn't even know I was nominated, let alone shortlisted!" Owen said.

"I am chuffed, to say the least, it was a great thing to see. It's not every day you are on the front of the Impartial!

"It came as a big surprise. I wasn't expecting it at all!"

For Owen, politics has always been a major passion. He identifies as Ulster Unionist, but stresses that he represents everyone within his role as MYP.

 "The Youth Parliament is essentially a pressure group, so I try to primarily raise awareness on the issues for young people in the constituency," he said. 

Owen also hopes that his involvement will inspire other young people to take an active interest in politics. 

"With the election coming up, there's definitely a lot more talk of politics, he continued.

"I feel that young people like myself should absolutely take an interest in politics, and it's great to see more young people wanting to get involved. 

"In Mid Ulster, it's great to see Jay Basra standing in the General Election at only 19 years old. 

"It's looking like this year has the potential to be better than ever when it comes to involving young people in the local area."

As a Year 13 student, this week Owen finished his exams, and he now has a full in-tray of ambitions to achieve over the summer months.

"I have a lot of work cut out for me with my own personal politics in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and with the Youth Parliament," he explained. 

"In the coming months, there are a lot of things I would like to achieve. The biggest thing for me at the moment is trying to promote youth programmes to get young people involved. 

"Fermanagh and Omagh Youth Voice has been struggling for membership as of late, and I would like to see that rejuvenated.

"The organisation has great potential for young people in the community to be heard."


The other person nominated in the Youth Community Champion of the Year was Grace Jackman, Mount Lourdes Grammar School.

The winner of this category and all of the other categories will be revealed at the awards ceremony at the Lough Erne Resort on June 27.