Young Debaters Tackle EU Hot Topics

18 October 2013

News Release


Students Take Stormont by Storm as

 Young Debaters Tackle EU Hot Topics



Students from 29 schools across Northern Ireland were at Stormont today to debate two of the most important issues facing Europe.

The students, who were taking part in the prestigious annual Mock Council of the European Union, represented countries from across the EU as they recreated the environment of a real Council of the EU meeting.

In the event, organised by the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland and the British Council, they tackled two topical issues: Energy needs in a global market and the democratic legitimacy of the EU.

Issues argued included how the EU could reinforce the public's trust for its political institutions; whether the EU has a democratic deficit; if EU foreign policy should concentrate on building stronger ties with countries rich in oil and gas; and does Europe need binding targets for green energy and energy efficiency after 2020?

Four students from Our Lady and St Patrick's College, Knock, in Belfast represented the European Commission at the annual debate, held in the Senate Chamber at Parliament Buildings.

One of them, Lower Sixth former Beth McDade, is also a member of the Youth Parliament.  She said:  “I am studying politics and this is a very enjoyable way of finding out how politics really works.  I took part as a debater last year and things can get quite heated on the floor.”

Peter Bothwell (17) of Belfast High School, who represented Malta, said: “I am studying politics and would definitely consider it as a career.  It’s my first experience of the Mock Council and the setting is very grand.  We have our strategy, but are keeping it under wraps!”

Congratulating the students who took part in the event, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, Colette FitzGerald said: "To create greater awareness of the European Union, it is important that students have the opportunity to debate major European issues.

“The Mock Council is an excellent initiative which allows students the opportunity to form political opinions, make decisions on matters which affect them directly and learn more about how the European Union works in practice."

British Council Director, David Alderdice, said: “In order for Northern Ireland to compete internationally we must continue to develop young people who are comfortable in the global marketplace.

“Programmes like the Mock Council contribute to that agenda and help young people develop skills that they will use as their careers develop. We hope these young people continue to avail themselves of international development opportunities as they continue their education.

“Record numbers of UK university students are now opting to spend a year studying or working abroad. More than 14,500 UK students took part in the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange scheme in 2012-13, the highest since the scheme was launched in 1987.

“That’s great news, but we still lag behind France, Germany and Spain so there’s plenty more work to be done.”


  • Media Contact for the British Council Northern Ireland: Linda Cushenan, Tel:     028 9019 2256 or email:
  • Also, Catherine McShane, European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, Tel: 028 9024 0708 or email: