WITH the issue of Brexit still very much in the spotlight, the timing of a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg was not lost on some politically-minded students from Hamilton High School in Bandon.
In fact, they were in the French city just days before a terrorist attack was carried out at the local Christmas markets.
The students got to experience the parliament machine first-hand when they were selected to make the trip just before Christmas.
The Cork students certainly had their voices heard and they impressed their fellow delegates and organisers of their event.
Only a certain number of schools are selected from across Europe each year to participate in Euroscola – an event hosted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg – and Hamilton High School was successful in being selected to represent Ireland.
They got to join high school students from all 28 member states of the European Union and had the opportunity to observe – and even participate in – the parliamentary procedures at the European Parliament.
Student Calum O’Donnell was singled out for high praise by the chairman of the plenary session, Evangelos Gintersos, for his ‘impressive display and worthy contribution’.
Out of the 12 delegates chosen for the final plenary session, five of them were from the West Cork school affectionately known as the ‘Hammies’.
‘Students in the school have, since last year, been intensely involved in promoting awareness about the benefits attached to the European projects, and the many challenges it faces through their involvement in Euroscola,’ said principal Eugene O’Brien.
‘It immerses our young students in the milieu of political life at the heart of the European Union and it contributes to the promotion of political awareness among our youth.’
The Hammies delegation was made up of 24 students from Transition Year and the senior cycle, and were accompanied by three teachers, Tiernan O’Driscoll, Vincent O’Connell and Anita Hurley.
Tiernan and Vincent both promote political and civic awareness in the school through their involvement in several Model United Nations workshops and Anita’s work with the Rotary Youth Leadership Competition has cultivated the students’ interest in political affairs.
Established in 1990 by the European Parliament, Euroscola is a communication tool for the Parliament to reach our out to young people and to give them the chance to experience the work and decision-making process in Europe.
Students get to vote on resolutions proposed by fellow delegates and the topics range from human rights to migration, youth employment and the environment.
‘At the final plenary session 12 delegates were selected from a group of some 500 students and of those, five students from our school were selected to head the debates at the main session, led by David Giles,’ added Eugene.
Despite sitting his Leaving Cert in June, David said that devoting time to an event like Euroscola is well worth the effort.
‘By becoming involved in the machinations of a political institution, such as the European Parliament, students develop a multiplicity of transferrable skills and build their confidence and competence which feeds into their sense of self and their well-being,’ said David.
According to Eugene, the former Hammies graduate and outgoing MEP Brian Crowley was very helpful in facilitating the Bandon delegation, prior to its departure, as was FG MEP Deirdre Clune.
‘The students’ memorable experience in Strasbourg took place just days before the terrorist atrocity visited on the city. This incident stands as a salutary reminder of the importance and the fragility of democracy and why we should not take it for granted,’ said Eugene.
‘While Europe’s citizens prepare to go to the polls in May, it is comforting to know that students such as ours refuse to be complacent about their role as Irish and European citizens, either now or in the future.’
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