Students meet Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt MLA


‘We have to find a way to rub along together and the best way is to walk in somebody else’s shoes.” Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt MLA
advised students in North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action programme

31/3/21: Mike Nesbitt MLA, former leader of the Ulster Unionist party, took questions on identity, climate action, power sharing, Brexit and Covid in the latest online forum between senior students and politicians, north and south of the border, as part of the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action programme. The questions were based on the key areas of mutual concern identified by students of Luttrellstown Community College Dublin, Dominican College Co. Antrim, Loreto Community School Co. Donegal and Ballyclare High School Co. Antrim, who are participating in this phase of the Glencree/Politics In Action programme.

In their questions, the students asked about cultural identity in Northern Ireland; the existence of Northern Ireland in 100 years; Unionists representation in the media; human rights, a hard border, an all-island approach to tacking Covid-10 and the impact of the pandemic on climate action; and power sharing. Asked what advice he would give the students in their role in bringing about the reality of a shared home place in their lifetime, Mike Nesbitt said: “Nobody is going away. There’ll still be British, unionists and loyalists; Irish, nationalists and republicans; and people who describe themselves as other than that on this little island. So we have to find a way to rub along together and the best way is to walk in somebody else’s shoes. ….  We all have a right to be here, its ok to disagree and not to look at it as division but, as John Hume did, as diversity which is natural and which, if you approach it in the right manner, is actually a strength.”


Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt talks to students as part of the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme.  

This third in the series of politician engagements was facilitated by Dave O’Brien and developed in collaboration with the students, teachers and Principals from the participating schools with the support of Politics in Action and Glencree.

Earlier this month, the students met with Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (click here to view) and SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP (click here to view).

About the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme

An initiative of Glencree and Politics in Action, the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme promotes dialogue and exchanges between senior students from different backgrounds north and south of the border on issues of mutual concern and so they can 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.

Funded by the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs and supported by the Department of Education, the programme, which is now in it’s second phase, 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.”

The objectives of the programme 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