The UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) has today launched its first ever elections in Northern Ireland where young people aged 11-18 can stand to become a Member of Youth Parliament, and vote for who they want to represent them on a UK-wide platform.

UKYP, supported by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF), will hold elections for 18 constituencies in the UK Youth Parliament, for the first time ever - mirroring those for Westminster. Previously, young people from Northern Ireland wishing to be part of UKYP were selected to fill the allocation of spaces, but from today anyone aged 11-18 who goes to school or works in Northern Ireland can stand and vote in the UKYP elections.

Letters inviting applications have been sent to all schools and youth groups across Northern Ireland. Candidates wishing to stand for elections have until 24th January 2013 to submit their application, and voting will take place between 7th February and 7th March 2013. The successful candidates will be announced on 11th March 2013. Further information about the election process is available on the online voting hub:  www.ukypni.co.uk

Ben Mallon, Trustee of the British Youth Council, the charity which runs the UK Youth Parliament, and former Chair of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum said:

"This is a really exciting development for the UK Youth Parliament, as we move to a more democratic model where young people can elect their peers. And we hope it will give young people in Northern Ireland a greater say in the issues that affect their lives.

"Joining the UK Youth Parliament offers a fantastic opportunity to promote the voice of your peers at a UK-wide level.  It helps young people learn new skills and gain confidence while campaigning for change on issues that matter most to young people.

"So, if you're interested in your local community and committed to bringing about change, we want to hear from you!"

Martin McAuley, Chair of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, said:

"We're delighted to be supporting the UK Youth Parliament in opening up elections to all young people in Northern Ireland.

"The UK Youth Parliament offers a unique experience for young people to bring about change, and I'd like to encourage as many young people as possible to stand and vote. This is your chance to be heard."