LARNE Grammar School pupils have been given first-hand experience of international politics at the seventh annual mock Council of the European Union in Stormont.
The heated debate, organised by the British Council and the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, took place in the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings and involved schools from across the island of Ireland, providing a valuable north-south dimension to the dialogue.
Topical events drove the agenda, with pupils debating the topic of migration with all its benefits and potential downsides. The other principal theme concerned the implications of online communications and privacy issues around social networking sites such as Facebook.
The role social networking played during the Arab Spring was very much on the agenda with pupils passionately debating censorship and privacy issues.
The young people also heard from the Head of the European Commission Representation in the UK, Jonathan Scheele, who gave them the benefit of his own insights into the workings of Council of the European Union meetings.
Mr Scheele said: “The EU has had a massive impact on life in Northern Ireland. It is important, therefore, that young people get to debate major European issues and find out about the workings of the EU.
“The mock Council provides an ideal forum for students to get a taste of what it would be like to represent their Member State at the European level.”
David Alderdice, director of the British Council said the project provided the participants with an opportunity to engage with real European issues beyond their everyday experience and stretch their skills as debaters and young leaders.
“In their role for the day as European Ministers, the pupils really nailed what it is to bring passion to a debate while also seeking a positive shared result through compromise and diplomacy.
“The day really allowed the pupils to spread their wings and experience a new dimension to their education – an international dimension - that we know from experience really benefits them as they develop their place in our society,” he added.
The Council of the European Union is, together with the European Parliament, the main decision-making body of the EU and brings together Ministers from each of the 27 member states.