As part of the ongoing community relations programme between Clann Eireann and Lurgan Youth Annexe those involved travelled on Weds 22nd February to Parliament Buildings at Stormont . During our time their the young people had an opportunity to meet with local MLA’s as well as political representatives from all of the main political parties .
Twenty young people along with project staff and volunteers undertook a Tour of Stormont organised by The Education Office and had a Q and A session with D.Kelly, (SDLP), P.Doherty, (Sinn Fein), Jo Anne Dobson, (UUP) Meta Crozier, (UUP) S Moutray, (DUP) . For many of the young people involved this was their first visit to The Assembly. Having undertaken a guided tour of the main building and the Assembly Chamber the group then travelled the short distance from Parliament Buildings to Stormont Castle to meet The First Minister, Mr Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Mr Martin Mc Guinness.
For some forty minutes both ministers were kind enough to engage with the group on issues of concern to the young people gathered. Topics discussed were the workings of the Executive and the Assembly, facilities and services for young people, third level education, job creation and the possibility of creating political internships within the Assembly. Both First and Deputy First Ministers’ complimented the group and staff on the Community Relations work facilitated to date and asked that the group would continue to build on the progress already made but also to encourage and inspire others to engage in similar projects.
Following on from Stormont the group travelled across the city to meet with Mr Kevin Roland American Consulate General and his staff. The meeting with Mr Roland gave the young people present a chance to here at first hand the role the American administration had in building the peace process which led to the current political structures being put in place . The consulate emphasised to the young people the need for co-operation and democratic dialogue as the basis for problem solving and the creation of a better society for all.
Consulate staff member, Mr Peter Mc Kitterick informed the group about other global conflict areas and explained how the Northern Ireland peace process is a great example of how difficulties can be overcome. Consulate staff concluded with a briefing on the American political system and opportunities’ available in the U.S.A for the young people participating in this project. This cross-community partnership demonstrates the positive engagement of young people from Protestant and Catholic communities through the development of relationships at both local and political levels.
We would wish to thank all of the political representatives who gave of their time to facilitate the meetings which everyone found both informative and educational. We are very grateful for the support from the US Consulate and Office of First and Deputy First Minister. The programme is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs (ROI) and SELB Youth Service.