Students meet Tánaiste Leo Varadkar


First online dialogue gets underway as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar meets over 60 students in the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme

Students raise common concerns of Covid, Brexit, Mental Health & Identity

10/3/21: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar joined over 60 students from four post-primary schools from north and south of the border in an online forum to discuss the impact of Covid-19, Brexit, mental health and identity.  Taking questions from students of Ballyclare High School and Dominican College both in Co. Antrim, Loreto Community School, Co. Donegal and Luttrellstown Community College, Dublin, the Tánaiste is the first of four politicians both North and South who will meet with students to discuss their issues and concerns as part of the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme.

Over 60 students joined Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in an online forum today as part of the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme.  This event was facilitated by Therese Cullen, Politics in Action, and developed in collaboration with the students, teachers and Principals from the participating schools with the support of Politics in Action and Glencree.

An initiative of Politics in Action and the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme is designed to promote dialogue and exchanges between senior students from different backgrounds north and south of the border on issues of mutual concern and learn about each other’s traditions, identities, commonalities and differences. It also provides opportunities for engagement with politicians and leaders in civil society to foster awareness and participation in politics and leadership for the future.

Now in it’s second phase, the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme relates to part of the Irish Government’s commitment set out in the policy document ‘New Decade, New Approach’ , the agreement to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland (Jan 2020) to: “Build(ing) on the success of the recent pilot programme of bringing pupils together – from schools North and South of the Border, from Nationalist and Unionist communities, and from the Integrated Schools sector – to meet, discuss issues of mutual concern and visit sites of significant shared historic relevance, we will expand the scheme over the lifetime of the next Government with a target of achieving 100 such cross border engagements per annum within a 5 year programme.”

“Following the work undertaken with 6 post primary schools in 2019/20 during phase 1 of the programme, over 60 students have now taken part in the current series of inter-schools dialogues designed to get to know each other, agree the topics of mutual concern and identify the politicians with whom they want to engage.” Joan O’Flynn, Acting CEO, Glencree Centre for Peace & Reconciliation said today. “We are grateful for the support of the Principals and lead teachers from the participating schools who recognised the importance of integrating this initiative into the Politics or Politics & Society curriculum and for working with us to modify the programme to comply with Covid-19 regulations, both north and south of the border, while ensuring high levels of student engagement.”

Peter Weil, CEO, Politics in Action said: “Our thanks to Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, for joining this first session with our students. In getting to know each other, their different backgrounds and perspectives, the students also found there were many issues and concerns that affected them equally. Whether from an urban or rural environment, from across different communities or political persuasions, from north or south of the border, the key areas of concern for the students and where they would particularly like to see changes to the existing laws in both jurisdictions centered on the themes of Brexit, Covid, mental health and identity.”

These themes will continue be the focus in the second dialogue in the series which will take place with Colum Eastwood MP, Leader of the SDLP, with the students later this month.

About the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme

Jointly designed and delivered by the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and Politics in Action, the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme is funded by the Reconciliation Fund, Department of Foreign Affairs with the support of the Department of Education.  The stated objectives of the programme in supporting senior students in post-primary schools across both jurisdictions on the island or Ireland are to:

  • establish broader cultural understanding and good relations across different traditions and identities on this island
  • appreciate the commonalities that may exist among young people, whilst also respecting the differences
  • gain an understanding and experience of the practical side of politics and leadership, especially the importance of demonstrating respect to those who hold opposing views and to develop the skills necessary to create mutually beneficial solutions to issues/concerns
  • gain an understanding and experience of engaging with conviction with political institutions
  • develop lasting respect and friendship with those from different backgrounds and with different values.

Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation works with people who have been impacted by conflict including victims/survivors, combatants and marginalised minorities regardless of generation and gender, and with the stakeholders who share our vision of sustainable peace, from community leaders to politicians, diplomats to faith groups. Our Peace Education and Young Adult work connects and engages students and young adults on a cross border, north-south basis. For further information; Twitter & Facebook @Glencree Centre, #Glencree4peace.

Politics in Action (PIA) aims to prepare young people for the challenges of leadership in whichever career or profession they chose to follow. We will help them learn how to listen to debates as well as contribute to discussions, to demonstrate respect for those who hold opposing views and to develop the key skills necessary to reach a mutually beneficial solution. This year we have a “New Normal” theme, which asks pupils to look at issues that can be improved, and help Northern Ireland recover after the pandemic. For further information