Ballymena Borough Council’s Youth Mock Council initiative received a Silver award in Belfast at the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s (NICCY) Awards.
The initiative – which has been running since March 2014 – was represented by a delegation from the Council, including Mayor Cllr Audrey Wales, Cllr Billy Henry and Cllr Timothy Gaston, plus a teacher and four pupils from Dunclug College.
More than 150 young people from nine schools – Ballymena Academy, Cambridge House Grammar, Castle Tower, Cullybackey College, Dunclug College, Slemish College, St Benedict’s (Randalstown), St Louis Grammar, St Patrick’s College –have played their part in two cross community day-long events which gave them an insight into life in local government, including role-play as councillors at a mock council meeting and the opportunity to ask questions of local Councillors in Q&A sessions and workshops.
The Mayor, Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, and Cllr Billy Henry – who led development of this initiative – have officiated at all events and are delighted with how successful it has been in its first year of roll out.
Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, said: ““Ballymena Borough Council is delighted to receive this award and to be recognised in our efforts to get the Borough’s young people more involved in local politics. On behalf of Council can I sincerely thank and congratulate everyone who worked so hard to make this outstanding youth project such a success, with particular mention to Councillor Billy Henry who has been a real driving force throughout the process.
“It has been wonderful to see young people in the Ballymena Borough coming together to learn about the workings of their local Council and we have been thrilled to offer young people the opportunity to get involved and find out how they can have a voice in local politics. I can only hope we continue to have even more success with this project moving forward.”
Cllr Billy Henry said: “When I instigated this process just over two years ago I never thought for a minute that we would get to the stage where we were in the running for an award, never mind receiving one.
“The hard work that has made this accolade possible has come from Ballymena Learning Together, the participating schools, Council officers and the Ballymena elected members who have participated – and to them I give my thanks and congratulations.”
Kirsten Collins is a pupil at Dunclug College who has participated in the mock youth council and attended the awards ceremony. She said: “I really enjoyed the youth participation programme organised by Ballymena Borough Council because it gave me an insight into areas of the council of which I had no knowledge. I particularly enjoyed speaking to our local councillors and hearing about their council business and their reasons for becoming an elected representative.
“The mock council election was interesting because it showed me how the council decision making process takes place and I was particularly surprised at the formality of the proceedings.”
“I would like to thank Mayor Wales, Councillor Henry, Councillor Gaston and Council staff for the time they have spent focussing on and encouraging the young people of Ballymena to become more involved in local politics.”
This project has received financial support from OFMDFM through Ballymena Borough Council’s Good Relations Unit.