YOUNG people from around Laois were out in force to celebrate the official launch of the Youth Cafe in Portlaoise, last week.
The newly opened space was officially launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD.
There was great excitement among young people, staff and volunteers who have been all working hard to ensure the success of the space, which has been open for business since before Christmas. Already the Youth Cafe is thriving with a number of different projects taking place and large numbers of young people dropping in to use its facilities every week.
Lysagh Redmond, who is chair of the Youth Cafe committee and Laois Comhairle na nOg told the Leinster Express that this space was really important for young people in the town.
“Instead of standing downtown we now have a place to relax, be safe and have fun. There are people dropping in all the time, and with the artwork on the walls we have marked it as our own space”, she enthused.
Volunteer Sean Murphy said that the space was “fundamental” to the town.
“In a town as big as Portlaoise where there are so many young people, it is easy to be up to doing negative things but this is positive and accessible. It is fantastic to have it here and the young people are integrating with eachother. That is overlooked in schools, and they seem to be mixing well together”.
Sean said that another big plus for the Youth Cafe was the wide range of projects which are always taking place, giving young people things to do, as opposed to just dropping in.
Volunteer Aisling McDonald, who had been involved with the group since 2009, said that the facilities were brilliant.
“They are much bigger than what we had before, much more open, more facilities, more accessible, and keeps young people off the streets”.
Ger Quinn from Mountmellick who often comes to the Youth Cafe was also full of praise for its diverse projects.
“For non sporty people - and a lot are not into sport - it is somewhere to go and hang out. There are friendly faces and you can relax. It also relaxes the adults as well who give recognition that this is our space. We have our Comhairle meetings here and the music held here is brilliant as well”.
Eamon Dunne who is a member of up and coming band Cramptown Spaces was very enthusiastic about the facilities for musicians.
“Because we are young, we struggle to get gigs anywhere else but we just ask for a gig here and we get it. We are here about once a week, you can always go and relax. In shopping centres you just get moved on so its good to be somewhere warm and dry, and preferably with playstations”, he joked.