Pupils from across Northern Ireland led a Mock Council of the European Union debate at Belfast City Hall today (Tuesday, February 11).
Run by British Council Northern Ireland, the event aims to give Sixth Form students a chance to experience the EU's decision-making process by representing the 27 EU countries in debates on topical policy issues.
This year’s debate comes after the UK’s departure from the EU, with the school’s debating on two of Europe’s most pressing issues; Climate Change and Social Media regulation.
The event saw the European Commission, which was represented by Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock (OLSPCK), put forward two motions: the first, that every EU state should commit 5% of their GDP to combat carbon emissions, was passed with 21 votes. The second motion, that information posted on social media by public bodies should be regulated, was narrowly defeated by three votes.
The UK was still present at the debate in the form of the UK Press, and was represented by Regent House Grammar School.
Speaking at the event was Jaynie Feehan from Our Lady’s Grammar School in Newry, who took on the role of Greece.
She said: “Today’s been amazing for my confidence as it takes a lot to stand up in front of so many of my peers as well as teachers in such a professional environment. I wanted to take part as I thought it was a great chance to learn from all the other participants and learn more about EU politics.
“The three of us representing Greece are very political and loved getting the opportunity to voice not only our opinions, but also opinions that we might not necessarily have.”
Also speaking at the event was Joel Keys from Breda Academy, who represented Sweden.
He said: “I took part in the social media debate this afternoon and really loved it. Events like this help you understand more about how the European Union operates and it’s one of the few ways we can learn and become familiar with the varying stances in Europe.
“I would love to get into politics in the future. There are changes I think this country needs and my ambition is to help change the education system here.”
The Mock Council of the European Union debate has been running in Northern Ireland for the past 15 years.
Speaking at the event, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, said: “Well done to all of today’s students – they all engaged really well throughout the debates and clearly had prepared well for the day.
“As the UK exits the EU, this year’s event is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago. It puts students at the heart of the negotiating table in the EU’s main decision making body.
“In preparation for today, students researched the various positions from the perspective of each of the member states, helping to develop greater intercultural understanding and knowledge of other countries while learning more about the workings of the main decision making body of the European Union.”
The Mock Council of the European Union took place at Belfast City Hall on Tuesday, February 11. For more information visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org, on Twitter: BCouncil_NI or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/britishcouncilnorthernireland