Pupils from 29 schools across Northern Ireland will take Stormont by storm next month, when they participate in a Mock Council of the European Union.
The annual event, which is now in its tenth year, 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.
They will be debating on two of the most important issues facing Europe – youth unemployment and foreign policy — with the school that produces the best debate winning a trip to the European Commission in Brussels.
Helping launch this year’s event were pupils from Rathmore Grammar School in south Belfast, who will take on the role of the European Commission at the debate – putting forward the European Commission’s proposals.
The four students, along with their teacher Lorraine Stronge, Head of Government and Politics, began their research for the event as they met with Colette FitzGerald, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, who gave them an insight into the role of the European Commission and the importance of Northern Ireland's membership of the EU.
The pupils also had the opportunity to meet with British Council Northern Ireland who provided an overview of the Mock Council event.
Speaking about the opportunity, Mrs Stronge said: “I’m really looking forward to this year’s event – this is only our second year taking part and taking on the role of the European Commission is a real honour.
“The pupils are always so enthusiastic and come away with a renewed vigour for politics, as well as a greater understanding of the role Northern Ireland plays in the European Union.
“It’s also a great opportunity for the pupils to take part in real politics — nowhere else would they get the chance to practice their debating and diplomacy skills in a setting such as the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings.”
Congratulating the students for taking up the role of representing the European Commission, Colette FitzGerald said: "Northern Ireland's membership of the European Union offers significant opportunities to build on economic, trade, educational and cultural links throughout Europe. To create greater awareness about the EU, it is important that young people have the chance to find out how it works in practice.
“The Mock Council provides an ideal forum for students to engage in debates and political negotiations, giving them a valuable insight into the role of the European Union and its institutions. I am delighted to be at Rathmore Grammar School today to meet with the students who will be representing the European Commission during the debate in October."
British Council Director, David Alderdice speaking after the event, said: “In order for Northern Ireland to compete internationally we must continue to develop young people who are comfortable in the global marketplace.
“Programmes like the Mock Council contribute to that agenda and help young people develop skills that they will use as their careers develop. We hope these young people continue to avail themselves of international development opportunities as they continue their education The Mock Council is one such opportunity – many other possibilities are available to browse at www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-create.
The Mock Council of the European Union will take place at Parliament Buildings on Friday, October 10. For more information visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org