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Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council

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Local Youth Learn Local Government at Council Offices

Publish Date: Thursday, 09 November 2006

Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) hosted a morning of activities on Friday 13th October, which aim to encourage post-primary schools in the Borough to become involvement in local government. The event was arranged as part of Local Democracy Week.

The overall aim of Local Democracy Week is to help break down the barriers between young people, local authorities, councillors and MPs by encouraging councils to involve young people in the planning and delivery of services.

Mayor Councillor Jim Hamilton stated:

"I am delighted to welcome these young people to the Council Offices. Through this event we are endeavouring to make Council more relevant to our young people. They are the most valuable asset our Borough has and they are also tomorrow's councillors. Their vote will influence how our country, town, leisure centres, hospitals, etc are run in years to come. We are engaging with them so that they can, in turn make their voices heard."
At the event, the local schoolchildren were given the opportunity to quiz local councillors in a 'speed-date' format. This proved to be a fun way for young people to meet councillors and find out more about the role they play in the community and how they can represent young people's rights and views at the local level. Students then scored each Councillor on Approachability, Listening Skills, Understanding your Issues and Actually Answering the Questions Asked. Cllr Frances Burton came out on top and was named as 'Best Councillor', with Cllr Larry McLarnon coming second, followed by Cllr Jim Cavanagh in third place.

Tully Kewley, a representative from WIMPS (Where is My Public Servant), stated:
"Local Democracy Week is a prime opportunity for all local Councils and decision-makers to get close to issues that affect young people locally and to create stronger relationships with the younger electorate. It is also a chance for young people to learn more about decision-making processes they can be involved in."

Colin Gervin, Head Boy of Integrated College Dungannon enjoyed the day's activities. He said:

"This opportunity gives us the chance to learn about our local Councillors and how the Council is run. The day has been a very useful experience."

St Patrick's Academy student, Thomas Dolan also enjoyed the event:
"I enjoyed the opportunity to question Councillors and to promote the need for the voice of youth to be heard. I feel strongly about the need for people of all ages to work together in a fully integrated system where everyone has a say on how we manage our community needs."

Following the 'Speed Dates', nominated students took part in a campaign to be elected as 'Mayor for the Day'. The candidates presented their 'campaign speeches', before the students involved in the Local Democracy Week event were given the opportunity to vote in a mock ballot for a successful candidate. The 'winner', Louise Lough, Aughnacloy High School, was elected and will accompany the Mayor, Councillor Jim Hamilton, in carrying out his official Council duties for a day.

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