Mairead Martin (third from left, back row) with her fellow Cuala club-members on their graduation from the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative in 2017.
Mairead Martin (third from left, back row) with her fellow Cuala club-members on their graduation from the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative in 2017.

Mairead Martin testifies to power of Dermot Earley Leadership Initiative


By John Harrington

The greatest advertisement for the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative are the graduates who come through the programme.

Cuala GAA’s Mairead Martin is a great example of a young person who benefited enormously from her DEYLI experience and has used the skills she learned to contribute positively to her club and the wider community.

A DEYLI graduate in 2017, this year the 21-year old NUIG student volunteered as a facilitator with the Cuala's DEYLI programme.

It’s to her credit she managed to do this remotely from Calais in France where she was also volunteering with an NGO supporting refugees in the French city.

“I was working with this small project called Human Rights Observors based in Calais,” says Martin.

“There are loads of different organisations helping the refugee crisis there but our particular one was working to defend people's rights in regards to the police because there is a huge amount of police violence in Calais.

“I didn't really know what I was getting into. I had been in Calais before but I was working in the kitchens serving meals so that was a lot easier than this which was very full on.

“We're a very small team, a group of seven, and there were very long days starting from 5am and finishing at 8pm. We were following the police because they do huge evictions every 48 hours in Calais and we need to be present during all of those.

“It was tough but it was still a great experience, I can't really put an adjective to it.”

Mairead Martin pictured in Calais, France, where she recently volunteered for three months helping refugees. 
Mairead Martin pictured in Calais, France, where she recently volunteered for three months helping refugees. 

Ask Martin to trace the journey that brought her to Calais and seen her study Human Rights in NUIG, and she’ll point to her experience of taking part in the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative as an obvious starting point.

“It was a brilliant experience,” she says. “We were a group of 10 or 12, it was something different, and I made a lot of friends through it.

“It definitely set me on a path. It was first thing that I did in Transition Year and then I ended up volunteering in Dun Laoghaire with Crosscare in a soup kitchen.

“Pretty much all of the other guys I was doing the Dermot Earley programme with started coaching in the club together and then ended up going to Zambia with Habitat for Humanity.

“They're really my circle now. It really gave me an opportunity to meet like-minded people, that's what I really took from it, meeting a group of people who all had the same sort of goals and drive.

“Since then on I've been volunteering and it helped me choose my path for studying Human Rights in NUIG. So, definitely, doing the Dermot Earley Leadership Initiative sparked all of that for me.”

Quite often the adult members in a GAA club don’t realise just how much untapped potential exists within the younger members of the club.

Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative participants and tutors. 
Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative participants and tutors. 

And the younger members can sometimes think they don’t have the wherewithal or opportunity to make a positive contribution to their club off the pitch as well as on it.

The real success of the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative has been in breaking down that disconnect and developing young leaders who can have a hugely positive impact on their club for decades to come.

“I think that's exactly it,” says Martin. “When you're 16 you probably don't think you have a platform or much of an ability to make a contribution, but I think this programme really motivates and encourages young people and shows them that they can.

“It's about giving young people in the club the platform to be involved at a higher level and to help them understand that they can positively contribute to the goings on in their club off the pitch as well as on it.

“I'd 100 per cent be encouraging other clubs to get involved, it's just a brilliant way to get more people actively involved in your club.

“My group that did it in 2017 got involved with coaching the younger kids and refereeing and things like that so it's definitely something I'd highly recommend.”

If your GAA club is interested in taking part in the 2021/22 DEYLI, go HERE.