There was no love at first sight but young people from all over Derry got their chance to pit questions to local councillors at a political speed dating event in the Workhouse Museum in the Waterside this week.
The event, which was part of Derry City’s Council’s Local Democracy Week, saw students from St. Cecilia’s College, St. Columb’s College and St. Joseph’s Boys’ School ask questions of councillors from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the DUP.
Each student spent three minutes with each councillor and could ask them questions to do with virtually anything but they were not allowed to ask the councillors for their name or what party they represented.
After chatting with each councillor the students had to give them a mark out of ten. And at the end of the event the scores were tallied and . . Sinn Fein councillor, Mickey Cooper, was announced as the winner.
“It’s great to see so many young people taking an interest in politics,” said Colr. Cooper.
“Many of the young people asked tough questions but they also gave us councillors an insight into the kind of issues that they would like to see addressed in this city.”
Jack Dunlop is an 18 year-old upper sixth student at St. Joseph’s Boys’ School. Jack, who is a member of the schools’ council, said that the event provided his generation with a great chance to find out more about the people who represent them.
“Because I am 18 I wanted to ask the councillors why they think that I should vote for them.
“I wasn’t allowed to ask them their name or what parties they represented but I have to say I was very impressed with what they had to say for themselves.”
Billy Guthrie, a teacher from St. Columb’s College, brought along students from his Citizenship class and said that he thought that it was great opportunity for the boys to put what they recently learned in class into practice.
“Citizenship is a topic that the boys study outside of their normal subjects but it’s a subject that educates them on the workings of local governance.
“It’s great that the boys can come here and meet with local councillors and ask them questions - it gives them the chance to put into practice what they have learned in class.”
Matthew Spence is a 14 year-old St. Columb’s College student. Matthew studies Citizenship at school and said that meeting with and chatting with local councillors has made him think about studying politics for A-level.
“It’s interesting to meet with the people who have been voted into represent our local community.
“I asked them questions about why they wanted to be a councillor and asked them what it is they are doing to develop Derry for young people.
“I was really impressed with what some of them had to say but it looks like I will have to wait another four years before I can cast my vote,” he smiled.
Matthew, who is from Newbuildings, talked to several councillors about the provision of bike paths and said that the young people of the city would certainly benefit if more were created.
“I chatted to them about the chance of getting more bike paths along the River Foyle. They were very receptive to what I had to say so hopefully we’ll see more bike paths in the future.”
Caitlin Sweeney and Geri Curran are both 14 years-old and at St. Cecilia’s College. Both Geri and Caitlin spoke with every councillor at the event and said that they after immersing themselves in local governance they would like to see the voting age lowered from 18 to 16.
“We want to take more of an active role in our communities,” said Geri.
“The only way we can do that is by be being allowed to vote.”
Caitlin added: “The young people of Derry need to have voice too because what we want is just as important.
“I really got the impression that the councillors we spoke to took us seriously but it’s just unfortunate that we have to wait another four years before we can vote.”
The councillors who took part in the political speed dating event were Mayor, Councillor Kevin Campbell, Councillor John Boyle, Councillor Eamon McAuley, Councillor Michael Cooper, Alderman Gary Middleton, Councillor Elisha McLaughlin, Councillor Eric McGinley, Councillor Ann Donnelly, Councillor Colly Kelly and Councillor Patricia Logue.