Earlier this year I invited all the secondary schools to enter a debate on “the advantages and disadvantages of being a member of the EU”.
Nine schools took up the challenge and the debate was held in the Council Chamber.
Each school was represented by four students, two on each side of the chamber. I was ably assisted by Aodh Quinlivan, Lecturer in Politics UCC and Emmanuel Quinlivan, Lecturer in European Politics UCC. An extremely well-researched debate ensued and rest assured we are in good hands into the future.
Four schools were picked out of the hat to travel with me to Brussels. Bishopstown Community School, Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Presentation Brothers College and Ashton were the four schools along with their teachers that travelled with me last week to find how Brussels works.
We arrived in Brussels at 9am on Tuesday morning, having left Cork at 1.30am. The day was spent seeing the sights and getting to know each other. With an early start on Wednesday, our first stop was to Brigadier General Philip Brennan, Irelands Military Representative in Europe who kindly invited us to his office for a talk on the military aspect of Europe.
Philip was appointed recently to the post, he was formerly the flag officer in Collins Barracks Cork. The visit was a first of its kind and hopefully the start of many. The most striking point made was when he asked the students “why was the European Union formed?” The answer was simple “to keep peace in Europe and never allow a reoccurrence of World War II”.
He reminded us that thirteen states of the 28 had at some stage over the last forty years dictators. None do now. He said put aside everything else and image Europe at conflict with each other. Both the teachers, the students and myself were reminded that the EU is a success, but also a work in progress.
We then went onto the Parliament to meet Corks Deirdre Clune, who facilitated and funded the trip. We were given a class on how the Parliament works and a very interesting talk on Brexit ad how that will happen.
In short, it will take at least ten years for the British to negotiate a deal. While two years is the timeframe, extension will be given, but every other country has to agree to allow the British more time to do the deal.
We then headed to the airport and homeward bound. I must say the 16 students are a credit to their parents, schools, teachers and city. We need to educate ourselves about Europe and our role in it and in particular our youth.