An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. welcomes initiative to bring up to 60 students from four schools, north and south, to an event at the Clock Tower in the Department of Education and Skills
Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. today (Wednesday October 23rd) hosted the first in a planned series of cross-border schools events at the Department of Education and Skills in Dublin.
Up to 60 students from four schools took part in the session which is designed to help students from north and south to engage on a range of universal and topical issues affecting them.
Students and teachers attending the event heard from the Minister and put questions to him, while the initiative was led by the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, based in Wicklow, and Politics in Action, based in Northern Ireland.
The schools which took part in the event are St Dominic's Grammar School for Girls, Belfast, Portadown College, Co Armagh, St Mary’s College, Galway and Gaelcholáiste na Mara, Wicklow.
The students, from transition year and sixth form, were given an opportunity to discuss the issue of climate change and put forward ideas and proposals on how it should be tackled.
Minister McHugh said: “It is my aim to see cross border engagement of young people as a permanent fixture on the calendar in the Department of Education and Skills.”
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joined Minster McHugh in welcoming the initiative.
“A cross border initiative has great potential and I am pleased to see engagement at this level and on such an important topic,” the Taoiseach said.
“I look forward to the project developing in the coming months and fostering deeper ties between schools and also between the staff and teachers.
“The initiative reflects discussions I had when I visited the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast last year and the need to seek out opportunities for more shared understanding of our connections.”
Minister McHugh added: “Greta Thunberg’s name and actions are in the hearts and minds of young people everywhere now. They are looking for action on issues affecting their lives now and the next generation. This event is about giving them another opportunity to make their voice heard.
“We must realise that while we respect the border, issues like climate change, sustainability, gender rights, bullying, online safety – they are challenges that affect us all. Organisations like Glencree and Politics in Action deserve praise for driving this initiative.”
Peter Weil, chairman of Politics in Action, said: “This event is a perfect opportunity to allow students to work together despite coming from different parts of the island, with different backgrounds and influences.
“We are trying to give students an insight into how politics and government works but also how they can push for change, how their voices can be heard and how they can influence decision makers.”
Eamon Rafter, Learning Coordinator of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, said: "This project is a great opportunity for schools north and south to engage with each other and focus on some of the important issues that affect them now and in the future. It gives them a voice and a way to be active at this important and difficult moment in our history."
Following the event in the Clock Tower in the Department of Education and Skills, the students toured Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
Today’s event was the first in a planned series of similar events. The second leg of the programme is being planned for Stormont later in the year. It will again include an opportunity for students to discuss a universal or topical issue, with a number of local politicians committed to take part. A shared history element will also be included in the Belfast leg with students visiting both Stormont and the Museum of Orange Heritage - Schomberg House.