PUPILS from four local schools met recently to discuss the current debate surrounding the use of flags and emblems.
The event was organised and run by the Change Makers project which has been working in the area of Community Relations in Lisburn schools for the past two and a half years.
St Patrick’s Academy hosted pupils from Lisnagarvey High School, Fort Hill Integrated College and Friends’ School.
Year 11 pupils from the four schools were keen to discuss the recent events surrounding the decision of Belfast City Council to fly the Union Flag only on designated days.
Peter McNiece from the Change Makers project said: “I feel that it is vitally important that young people have the opportunity to learn about the use and symbolism of all flags in our society in a mutually respectful manner. There are some who believe that a young person’s education should not involve looking at any contentious issues. I would strongly argue that the opposite is true and that this interschool and intercommunity dialogue is vital to a young person understanding and respecting points of view which may be contrary to their own.”
The pupils were asked to say a little bit about how they found the discussions. 98% said that this opportunity let them hear different views about flags, 87% said that the event helped them to understand more about flags in NI and 87% said that they got to share their opinion.
Pupils said that it was good to meet new people from different religions and listening to their opinions and that it showed you what both sides really think about riots and their flags.
Change Makers is funded through the International Fund for Ireland’s Sharing in Education programme and is a collaboration between Belfast YMCA, Northern Ireland Children’s Enterprise (NICE) and Community Relations in Schools (CRIS).