Statement on attendance at Young America’s Foundation Conference

The Edmund Burke Institute [EBI] recently arranged for a number of Irish students to attend the 41st National Conservative Student Conference, hosted by the Young America’s Foundation [YAF]. The event involved over 1,300 American students coming together to hear from senators, professors of business and law, administration officials and advisors, and the vice-president of America.

The trip was organised in order to give Irish students an opportunity to see political and intellectual defenses of the free market at a level of sophistication that simply does not occur in Ireland, whilst also giving students the chance to see the impact that young people can have when they are involved with an organisation that takes the development of young people seriously.

Following the conference a piece was published in the Irish Independent that stated there was anger within Young Fine Gael that our students had attended the event. The piece, which we were not asked to comment on before print despite the author being told we had organised the trip, relied nearly entirely on anonymous sources to show that this anger existed.

Because of this poorly researched and biased reporting our students have faced a torrent of abuse and smears focusing on everything from their political views to their appearances to their sexuality. They have been called fascists, racists, misogynists, white nationalists, bigots, and liars.

The wider reporting of this issue has been, in general, odious and has consisted largely of ad hominem attacks and ignorant and inaccurate comments as to the political positions of YAF and, by extension, the Edmund Burke Institute and the students who attended the event.

At a time when we should be encouraging the young to express more of an interest in politics and civic society the fact that attendance at a conference, held by a group aligned with the democratically elected government of one of Ireland’s major trading partners, can be seen as a cause to attack the reputation of young people is shameful. The fact that this has become an issue at all reflects on the intellectual poverty and fragility of political discourse in Ireland.

Additionally we find the public calls of Maria Walsh MEP for the resignation of Killian Foley Walsh to be grossly inappropriate. Maria Walsh positions herself as a champion of mental health and a supporter of younger generations. Given her willingness to publicly move against Killian, despite the immense power differences in their respective positions, and her failure to distance herself from the abuse that both Killian and Chloe Kennedy have now been facing for days, both on social media and in the real world, we would question her commitment to her stated principles

We were honoured to partner with YAF to bring over these students, and we fully intend to bring over students in greater numbers next year. At the conference all of our students showed themselves to be people of the highest calibre, in stark contrast with many of the people now criticising them, and we are proud to continue to support them.

Gary Kavanagh


Edmund Burke Institute

Michael Dwyer


Edmund Burke Institute

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