Transition year student wrote about 'The Politics of Apathy' to be Press Pass winner

Aspiring journalist Emma O’Flanagan was prophetic when she wrote “politics is a mess” — long before the outcome of the general election was known.

Emma O'Flanagan. Pic: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography 2016

The transition-year student from Our Lady’s College in Drogheda, Co Louth, was the overall winner in a national competition that encourages students to read newspapers.

Emma wrote her thought-provoking opinion piece — ‘The Politics of Apathy’ — because she is worried that most young people do not care about politics, that it bores them.

She was one of more than 7,500 students who took part in the 2015 Press Pass initiative run by NewsBrands Ireland and sponsored by the Irish League of Credit Unions.

Emma, who hopes one day to become a political journalist, talks about political matters with her family, but not with her friends.

“I don’t talk politics with my friends because I don’t think they are interested, but they should be because they are going to have to vote some day — it will affect them anyway.”

Former press ombudsman and jury chairman, Prof John Horgan, said Emma not only scored top marks in the competition, she seemed to be endowed with the gift of prophecy.

“It captured a public mood even before it had been expressed in the ballot box,” he said.

More than 60,000 students from around the country have taken part in Press Pass since it was launched in 2012.

Category winners, from left, Zachary Gillespie from St Columba’s Comprehensive School, Glenties (News); Eoin Hartnett from Coláiste an Chraoibhín, Fermoy (Comment and Opinion); Lorraine Hanrahan from Presentation, Castleisland (Photojournalism), and Ciaran Sheehan, CBS, Charleville, (Sports). Pic: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography 2016

The initiative, sponsored by the Irish League of Credit Unions, seeks to improve literacy skill and critical thinking as well a increasing awareness of media and news among students.

Free national and local newspapers are provided to participating schools and students are encouraged to analyse a range of newspaper content.

The students also receive a guidebook compiled by Irish Examiner news editor John O’Mahony and designed by Irish Examiner marketing graphic artist, Edward Butt.

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English, who presented the winning students with their awards at the Convention Centre in Dublin, said newspapers were an excellent teaching tool and commended NewsBrands Ireland for providing them free- of-charge to participating schools.

“Press Pass is a positive initiative that can benefit transition year students in a variety of ways, not only by improving literacy skills and helping to prepare them for the Leaving Certificate English course, but also by developing a greater understanding of the world we live in,” said Mr English.

Brian McCrory, president of Irish League of Credit Unions, Press Pass sponsors; Damien English, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, and Vincent Crowley, chairman of NewsBrands Ireland. Pic: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography 2016

Newsbrands Ireland chairman, Vincent Crowley, said the entries were of an exceptional standard and what really came through was a sense of enjoyment and love of words.

“The winning entries demonstrate a confident grasp of language and literacy that will stand to the students whatever they choose to do in life,” said Mr Crowley.

As well as the overall winner there were five category winners;

  • News: Zachary Gillespie, St Columba’ Comprehensive School, Glenties, Co Donegal.
  • Features: Karen Stapleton, Coláiste na Sceilge, Caherciveen, Co Kerry.
  • Opinion: Eoin Hartnett, Coláiste an Chraoibhín, Fermoy, Co Cork.
  • Sport: Ciarán Sheehan, CBS, Charleville, Co Cork.
  • Photojournalism: Lorraine Hanrahan, Presentation, Castleisland, Co Kerry.

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