Bangor Grammar pupils are set to lead an EU debate at Stormont next month.
The Sixth form pupils will take on the role of the European Commission at a Mock Council of the European Union and will be joined by 28 other schools from across Northern Ireland.
The annual event is organised by the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland and British Council Northern Ireland and will see the students recreate the environment of a real Council of the EU meeting by debating on two of the most important issues facing Europe – Post-Brexit: what next for the EU and the UK- and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — With one of the lucky schools winning a trip to London to take part in a wider UK debate.
To launch the event, the pupils and Principal Mr Wilson, met with Colette FitzGerald, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland and Melissa Catterson, from British Council Northern Ireland, to begin their research into the role of the European Commission and its importance in relation to Northern Ireland.
With current tensions in the real Council of the European Union, this could be the most exciting debate in the event’s 12-year history.
Speaking about the opportunity, Mr Wilson said: “We’ve been part of this event since the start and it has proven to have numerous benefits for our pupils. Not only do they get a chance to network with other schools and pupils, but they also pick up key skills and a renewed vigour for politics.
“It’s also a great opportunity for the pupils to take part in real politics and get an understanding of the role Northern Ireland plays in the European Union— nowhere else would they get the chance to practise their debating and diplomacy skills in a setting such as Stormont.
“I think this year especially will be an interesting debate — our young people feel cheated by Brexit and are worried about their future — on the day there’s sure to be a lot of energy and passion in the room!”
Jack Steen, a politics student at Bangor Grammar, is looking forward to taking part in the debate.
He said: “It’s great to be part of an event that will show the value of the European Union. I want to go into politics myself and this will help develop the skills and knowledge I need to pursue this. It will also be good to see how other countries view Brexit as we only hear through the media about the impact on the UK.”
Congratulating the students for taking up the role of representing the European Commission, Colette FitzGerald said: "I am delighted to be at Bangor Grammar School today to meet with the students who have taken on the important role of representing the European Commission at the Mock Council event in October.
“The Mock Council is an ideal forum to create greater awareness among young people about the big issues facing Europe today and to allow them to engage in debates and political negotiations. I look forward to helping Bangor Grammar School in their preparations for the role."
Speaking after the event, Jonathan Stewart,Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland , said: “In view of the recent referendum, this is bound to be a passionate debate. This event will put pupils at the head of the negotiation table and allow them not only to see how politics works at a wider, European level, but it also gives them the chance to understand the possible ramifications Brexit has on the UK, as well as the rest of Europe. The debate itself will also help them develop the necessary skills needed to compete in the global market place in the future.”
The Mock Council of the European Union will take place at Parliament Buildings on Friday, October 14. The event will be streamed live at http://nireland.britishcouncil.org. For more information, follow British Council Northern Ireland on Twitter: BCouncil_NI or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/britishcouncilnorthernireland