‘What does Peace Mean to You?’ Bridging the past, the present, politics and peace.

Catherine Kilgallen
Catherine Kilgallen
May 5, 2023
 ‘What does Peace Mean to You?’  Bridging the past, the present, politics and peace.

On Tuesday 18th April, Politics in Action were delighted to participate in the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement hosted by Queen’s University, Belfast. Our event entitled “What Peace Means to Me” brought together a wonderful group of 230 young people from across schools in Northern Ireland and Donegal, Diverse Youth NI, Secondary Students Union NI, Sisters In and the UK Youth Parliament to discuss the ideas that are important to them.

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern

The day began with students arriving at the Peter Frogratt Centre at Queen’s University, where the stage was set for the ‘marketplace’. There were large posters of each cluster and their main political issues they have been working on, and EY generously sponsored the event, allowing us to provide branded hoodies, and ensure that the day was an overall success.  They even provided stationery for the young people to take home. Anticipation was building in the open hall and students were able to mix and see what others had been working on.

Sisters In

Queens University brought a number of very high profile guests to meet our groups.  Our first guest, Cherie Blair arrived and went round each table where young people were able to present and discuss their own topics and ideas.

Cherie Blair meeting students

Key political figures of the Good Friday Agreement Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were next to arrive. They interacted with students, listening to their ideas, signing their books and taking photographs with the students. Some young people were able to get selfies with them!  One particular young person, Ellen Taylor had her father’s original copy of the Good Friday Agreement which she asked Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern to sign!

Tony Blair signing an original Good Friday Agreement document

US Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy III visited our ‘Poreto for Progression’ cross-border student project from Portadown College and Loreto College, Milford (supported by the International Fund for Ireland) Mr Kennedy greeted the students and listened to Loreto student Jack’s poem on The Good Friday Agreement. For more regarding Jack’s poem please see our previous blog post.

Joe Kennedy asking Jack to sign his copy of the poem

Other high profile guests included Minister of State Steve Baker, and some MLAs also called in.

Then it was time for a quick lunch break before our panels in the lecture theatre. Rob Herron managing Partner of EY gave a welcoming speech and was followed by the official rebranding presentation of Politics in Action, presented by Ellie, Samuel and Shuaib who had been part of a group of young people who helped us produce our new brand and this website.

The first panel was entitled ‘Women and Leadership’. We were delighted to have Sarah Friar (Nextdoor), Katrina Fotovat (Acting US Ambassador at Large), Judith Savage (EY) and Professor Monica McWilliams share their ideas and take questions. It was an illuminating discussion on women in politics, and there were great questions from our student audience. We will always remember Monica McWilliams advice to young people ‘stand up and speak out!’.

Our wonderful women's panel

Our following panel consisted of young MLAs from across the political sphere; Robbie Butler, Cara Hunter, Eoin Tennyson, Jonathan Buckley and Emma Sheerin. There was an interesting discussion on how each MLA first got into politics and their experience being a young MLA. One young person raised the topical issue of votes at 16 and asked each MLA their party’s stance. We at Politics in Action are even more motivated to campaign for young people at 16 to be given the right to vote in Northern Ireland!

Young MLA panel

The day concluded with a special poem written by Jack who read it out to the audience. Each young person received their own Politics in Action hoodie to commemorate the day!

Jack reading his poem

We would like to extend our thanks for those who participated in the day, particularly young people sharing their ideas on how to build a ‘Better Peace’. We would like to thank Queen’s University for hosting the event, inviting us to participate and all their invaluable assistance in the planning and organisation, and to EY for generously sponsoring the event. Special thanks also go to our facilitators, photographers and technical support. Thanks also to our political guests and panelists whose contribution certainly made this a day to remember!

'Poreto for Progression'
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