European politics take students to Stormont

Cookstown High students representing Germany at the mock Council of the European Union in Stormont.
Cookstown High students representing Germany at the mock Council of the European Union in Stormont.

YEAR 14 Students from Cookstown High joined students from 27 other schools to gain first-hand experience of the cut and thrust of international politics at the seventh annual mock Council of the European Union.

The heated debate took place recently in the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Organised by the British Council and the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland the mock Council sets out to recreate the environment of a real Council of the European Union meeting. 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.

Students engaged with increasingly important role of EU decision-making and this was played out on the floor of the Senate Chamber when teams of three students from the participating schools took on the roles of government ministers from each of the 27 EU member states. Students also made up a‘European Commission’ to keep the meeting as genuine as possible and help reach a consensus.

Topical events drove the agenda at Stormont with students debating the topics of migration and also the implications of online communications and privacy issues.

The role social networking played during the Arab Spring was very much on the agenda with students passionately debating censorship and privacy issues.

David Alderdice, Director British Council Northern Ireland said: “In their role for the day as European Ministers the students 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 students 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.”

Students also heard from the Head of the European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom, Jonathan Scheele, who gave the students the benefit of his own insights into the workings of Council of the European Union meetings.

He said: “The EU has had a massive impact on life in Northern Ireland. The challenge now is to deepen Northern Ireland’s engagement with Europe, allowing it to integrate fully with the rest of Europe and to play its role successfully on the European stage. 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.”

Cookstown High School was chosen to represent Germany for the duration of the council meeting. Emma Donaldson acted as research and e-twinning representative prior to and during the mock EU council meeting and Owen Lucas and Ross Mitchell each debated on the issues of Digital Agenda and Migration respectively. It was an excellent opportunity and an experience which will hopefully give a valuable insight into local and global citizenship, as well as the art of negotiation.