The guest speaker addressing this years National Council Meeting of Scouting Ireland at the RDS, Dublin was twenty five year old Máire Fitzgerald from Ballinora. She was by far the youngest speaker ever to address National Council. For those outside Scouting, the National Council is the equivalent of an Ard Feis of a political party. The Beaver Scout leader from Ballinora looked undaunted as she addressed the packed audience of over 800 delegates from across the country. The following is an edited version of her inspiring address
“When I was young and learning to read, I sometimes got my words a little jumbled. I kept skipping words or inserting some of my own instead. My Dad used to tell me to ‘read the words that are there and not the words you think are there’. It turns out that I was so focused on trying to read the story, to get to the end and to find out what happened, that I wasn’t taking time to read the words on the page. Instead, I was opting to pick a few key words and I filled in the others based on my own idea of how the story should go. I won’t tell you how long it’s been since I learned how to read, but for some reason, when I was thinking about what to say today, that advice came to mind.
“Scouting is many things to different people. It brings people together who otherwise would have no reason to interact. Scouting builds people up in many different ways, providing learning opportunities and life changing experiences that no one could ever expect or imagine. But, looking around here today, I don’t need to tell any of you about the benefits of Scouting. However, one thing that I think is very important for us all to remember is the role each of us has to play, sometimes without even realising it, in sharing the benefits of Scouting with others.
“In April 2008, a team of four Scouts took part in the MPC in the Knockmealdowns with minimal training or preparations. If I’m being honest, they probably had very little business being on that mountain. However, that didn’t stop the staff of the event doing everything within their power to get the team safely to the peak, and onto the camp for the night.
“In 2009, an over-eager Venture Scout did a lone tour of the National Events, staffing the National Beaver Activity Day, the National Raft Race and the Phoenix Patrol Challenge. I doubt that anyone who saw that Venture Scout, disguised as Dora the Explorer and galloping around Fota Wildlife Park, could have known that she had the capacity to serve two terms as Chair of the Southern Province and National Youth Representatives for Rover Scouts.
A young girl with a mop of red hair joined Beaver Scouts in Ballinora Scout group in 1998. Who could possibly have known that she would go onto sit at the table of the World Scout Committee?
“In 2012 I received an e-mail about an exciting international event open to Provincial Youth Representatives. I applied, was accepted as a Scouting Ireland delegate, and before I knew it I was off to Kandersteg Scout Campsite in Switzerland for Agora 2012. The following year I was selected as a member of the Planning Team for Agora, and the year after that I coordinated the Planning Team. That same year, I attended the World Scout Youth Forum in Slovenia, something which I had first heard about during Agora 2012, and was elected Youth Advisor to the World Scout Committee.
“The National Management Committee approved my nomination to attend the World Scout Youth Forum and to run for Youth Advisor. Those volunteers of the World Scout Committee and in the European Working Group trusted me, a young person they didn’t really know, with large responsibilities. The new European Committee trusted me with even more responsibility. All the while my group, 109th Cork (Ballinora), supported and encouraged me in my projects, and they trusted me with the Beaver Scout section, something of which I am fiercely proud.
“My Beavers are absolutely fascinated by the idea that there are over 40 million people around the world who make the same Scout promise as we do and have Lodges and Patrols, just like us. With my work as Youth Advisor, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the six Scout Regions of the world and learn about how different young people do their Scouting.
“Lord Baden-Powell challenged us to “Look wide, and even when you think you are looking wide – look wider still.” In Ireland, we do Scouting well. Our challenge is to look to see how we can push the boundaries, and then push the boundaries further still. This relates to our own limits, our need for adventure, but I think it should also relate to gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world around us as well as the people who live there. As a National Scout Organisation, we, as Scouting Ireland, need to be mindful that there are many different ways to follow the Scout Promise, and that it is our job to support and encourage as many young people in this work as possible.
“The next chapter of Scouting Ireland’s history begins today. We face challenges in determining what the future of Scouting Ireland will look like, and how best we should plan in order to get there. We need to be willing to take the time to understand each other, both at home and abroad. We need to take the time to see the world and the potential that is out there waiting for us, not just what we think is there”
PHOTO CREDIT DAVID BARRY