Following the success of similar exercises last year, Ballymena Borough Council hosted 60 post primary school pupils last week at a Youth Mock Council event at the Braid Town Hall.
Young people from six schools – Cambridge House Grammar, Castle Tower, Cullybackey College, Dunclug College, Slemish College and St Patrick’s College – took part in a cross community day-long event which gave them an insight into life in local government, including role-play as councillors at a mock council meeting and the opportunity to debate how rates are set at a workshop.
The Year 11 pupils follow in the footsteps of pupils who participated when this scheme was launched last year, with the success of previous events meaning that the Council decided to repeat the exercise again for the benefit of all involved.
The Mayor, Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, and Cllr Billy Henry – who led development of this initiative – officiated during the mock meeting, serving as Chair and Vice Chair respectively, assisted by a number of other elected members and officers who also attended.
Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, Mayor of Ballymena Borough Council, said: “Our hope is through initiatives such as these, this generation is inspired to embrace the democratic process which, in turn, will hopefully reverse the worrying trend of many people ‘opting out’ of using their vote.”
Cllr Billy Henry said: “I am delighted that we are running this initiative again for a new group of students. It is so important that our young people understand the role of Council, so being able to invite them to participate in sessions that let them see how ratepayers’ money is spent – and appreciate how spending has to be prioritised – provides an excellent opportunity for them to see democracy in action.”
Ballymena Borough Council organises the event in conjunction with the support of two local organisations – the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership and Ballymena Learning Together.
Selena Ramsey from the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership said: “The voice of a young person is at the heart of the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership, so we are delighted to support Ballymena Borough Council and Ballymena Learning Together in the Mock Youth Council event. It was delightful to see so many young people from all backgrounds come together in the initial meeting and chat to councillors about their role in Ballymena. Allowing these young people to have a go at some of the decisions councillors and council officers make daily has proved very interesting.”
Dr Paul McHugh, Principal of Slemish College, is Chair of Ballymena Learning Together: “The Ballymena Learning Together schools are very grateful to the Borough Council, councillors and officers who have devoted enormous time and resources to making this year’s event even better than 2014,” he said.
This project has received financial support from OFMDFM through Ballymena Borough Council’s Good Relations Unit.