A BOY took to the stage with Mary McAleese to talk about hopes for a bright future for Ireland but ended up begging on the streets.
Mark Rafferty was 14 years old when he visited Aras an Uachtarain during a cross-border reconciliation event 20 years ago.
He said he was “afraid” to make the speech alongside then-President McAleese, but felt it was the right thing to do.
Now, Mark, 33, said it was the first in a string of events that took his life down.
He told the Irish Sun: “I wish I had never done it. It ended up being a negative thing and caused me many problems. It’s like I’m speaking up for others but no one has spoken up for me yet.”
Young Newry was chosen to give the speech after participating in the peace charity North-South Ireland Cooperation, of which the Queen and the current President of Ireland are joint patrons.
However, 2002 was a tense year in which loyalists and republicans clashed in the streets and a sectarian Cross dispute rocked Belfast.
Mark says that speaking up for peace and reconciliation in the spotlight has led to verbal abuse and bullying that he finds difficult to handle.
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Relationships in the family deteriorated and with his confidence shaken, he moved to Belfast to study IT.
Not impressed with the course and seeing no future, he dropped out, started research and founded his own IT company.
NOT HAVING A GOOD SLEEP
His business website soon attracted 60,000 unique visitors a month when he received a purchase offer and, at the age of 20, moved to London.
For a while, he worked in a nightclub before being hired for web design and internet marketing positions.
Despite the lack of formal qualifications, the six-year success has seen the talented designer flourish and forge great relationships.
But when he was suddenly let go, his rising confidence resurfaced.
Life went downhill, he lost his home and started sleeping on the streets of London.
He was starting to hate the idea of “anyone on Google looking for me” and figured that fact out years ago.
And he was unable to return to the homeland he left off as the issues surrounding that time came to light, including the quirks he had endured.
As the days and weeks went by, Mark’s condition got worse and worse.
‘I HAVE DREAMS’
He began begging for food and was given difficult medicine, which he avoided.
It took three years before he moved into temporary accommodation.
This week, Mark told how, after seven years living homeless in London, he finally decided to move back to Northern Ireland last year.
Things are not going well in Newry and Mark is currently living in a dormitory in Belfast.
He said: “I am at a loss right now because I have dreams and aspirations but I feel like my talent is wasted. My life is wasted because I have nothing to do all day.”
He added that he was “still not sure why I attended” the 2002 speech event, adding, “I got in political trouble because of that speech.”
Mark told us: “It always gave me a lot of problems. To me, it was like giving that speech made me homeless.
“I don’t remember what I said, only that it was about peace and reconciliation.
LOCATION OF CHILDREN MARKET
“But someone wrote the speech, to begin with. They had to choose one person to do it and I was selected. Now I wish I never did. I’m not a politician but it’s a political issue and a lot of people don’t want to know about it.
“I remember I was so scared to make that speech. I asked my mom if I should do it and she said ‘if you want’.
“She bought me a special top for the speech, bought for that day. I think that gave me the confidence to do it but it affected me emotionally and everything after it did. Some people just turned their backs on me.”
Mark now hopes to rebuild his confidence and, ideally, get the support of “a mentor” to build himself up and get back into his web design business.
He said: “I’m in a dorm now with nothing to do but I don’t want to stay here for too long. There are so many things I want to continue now.”
Ms McAleese, who was president from 1997 to 2011, called Mark’s day “a day of celebration” for Cooperation Ireland.
“We wasted a lot of that talent before, but now for the first time we get a taste of what life on this island would be like when every scrap of ability and creativity,” she said. Every bit of potential is served. of everybody. ”
https://www.thesun.ie/news/8215531/boy-mary-mcaleese-speech-now-homeless/ I went on stage with Mary McAleese