Pupils from Belfast High and Glengormley High were among those from east Antrim schools who visited Stormont recently to debate two of the most important issues facing Europe.
The students, who were taking part in the annual Mock Council of the European Union, represented countries from across the EU.
During 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?
Seventeen-year-old Peter Bothwell from 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.”
Meanwhile, Larne Grammar pupils Adam Campbell, Eve Pijl and Johanna Gray also flexed their debating muscles and this year, the school was chosen to represent Romania.
The first debate of the day was on the motion ‘Democratic Deficit? Democracy in the run-up to the European Parliament elections of 2014’ and was tackled by Eve.
This lively debate saw pupils discuss and explore complex issues - from the possibility of a European President to the correlation between unemployment and low voter turnout.
Pupils later returned to the chamber for the second debate, ‘European energy needs in a global marketplace’. This time, it was Adam’s turn to put forward Romanian opinion on a range of issues such as nuclear power, renewable energy and fracking. He gave a rousing speech on how the fundamental ethos of the EU is to pool resources and work together, whatever the risk.