Enda O’Coineen: “My father always said to put something back and that's what we’re doing with the Atlantic Youth Trust.”
In 2008 Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland had two sailing vessels dedicated to providing youth development opportunities to young people. Just two years later no vessels were operational and young people were missing out on life changing opportunities that had been open to them for decades. Enda O’Coineen and others set out to change this.
Rather than seeing this as a negative, the founders of the Atlantic Youth Trust saw this as an opportunity. They began by holding what could be described as town hall meetings to bring in as many stakeholders from across the island as possible. The outcome of these meetings were clear. Firstly, anything that was to be done must be done to the highest international standards in an attempt to create a world class solution. Secondly, following agreement from various stakeholders it was decided a single organisation could offer more valuable services in terms of cultural integration and reconciliation as opposed to two vessels and organisations. This also meant economies of scale and more resources were available.
Over £20,000 / €23,000 was privately raised and invested in an initial research paper that examined over 25 similar organisations around the world in order to identify the most suitable model to follow. The results were clear, the Spirit of Adventure Trust in New Zealand was the most suitable model to follow for the following reasons:
Once the model was identified the next steps were to form the charity, hire an employee to lead it, and raise a seed fund. Initially €160,000 was raised from individuals and corporates including Belfast Harbour, Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Matheson, Carson McDowell, Mash Direct, Arklow Shipping, Mainport Shipping, Kilwaughter Minerals, Dermot Desmond, and Denis O’Brien.
Parallel to this two Advisory Groups were formed, a Vessel Group and an Education Group. Members include the National Maritime College of Ireland, Ulster University, Daffodil Care Services, Harland & Wolff, amongst others.
Once initial support and interest was received from the government in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland EY (Ernst & Young) were engaged to complete a Business Case. This identified the four key objectives of the organization:
The Business Case also includes a detailed options appraisal for achieving the above and models each option out over 30 years. The preferred option was for a vessel that can carry 40 youths per voyage, similar to the vessel in New Zealand.
Following examination of the Business Case the plans for one 48m tall ship to be run jointly between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were included in the ‘A Fresh Start: Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan’, Capital Investment Plan, and Programme for Government.
120 teenagers were given opportunities on pilot voyages around the island during the summers of 2015 and 2016 on a smaller vessel to showcase what is possible. These were financially supported by a range of corporates and the Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund.
In accordance with the Stormont Agreement, during 2017, “the Irish Government will work also with the Northern Ireland Executive to seek agreement on a funding plan for the Atlantic Youth Trust initiative. This proposal involves a new sail training vessel to facilitate youth development, mentoring, and training on an all-island basis.”
Never before has a proposal with this level of support, research, evidence, and potential been embraced by all corners of the island. Investment in the Atlantic Youth Trust is creating a unique service provider that will offer youth, justice, training, education, and tourism services for decades to come. In support of Enda, and his founding role in the Atlantic Youth Trust, we ask that you take the time to learn more about the Trust and become an advocate for what will become a true flagship for young people on this island, change lives, and inspire future generations of adventurers.
Concept Image of the Proposed Ship