Mairead McGuinness MEP for Offaly and first Vice-President of the European Parliament undertook an official visit to Oaklands Community College, Edenderry on Friday (28th April).
The college is one of just 24 in Ireland participating in the European Ambassador School Programme, whereby Senior Ambassadors (teachers) take students (Junior Ambassadors) through the Ambassador School Workbook provided by the European Parliament. And participating schools are encouraged to twin with other participating schools across the EU.
Ms McGuinness spoke with transition year students and presented certificates and an award to the school for its success in the programme.
“The programme is enabling these Oaklands students to look intensively at the EU and their level of engagement was evident in a lively debate that included the implications of Brexit and the whole issue of the future of Europe.”
Ms McGuinness urged the pupils to take their active citizenship role very seriously.
“We all have a huge responsibility to make the Europe of today and tomorrow live up to the founding ideals of the EU of solidarity among nations, peace and human rights.
“The solutions to the current challenges thrown up by, for example, rapid advances in technology, must be met by your generation,” she told them.
“The future of the EU is in the hands of its citizens and young people have a special responsibility to take charge of their futures within a vibrant and reformed EU,” she said.
She said in last year’s UK referendum 73pc of young people aged between 18 and 24 voted to remain in the EU while a majority of those aged over 45 voted for Brexit with the older the voter the higher the vote in favour of Brexit.
Ms McGuinness said such a divergence would indicate that younger people, while they do not cast their votes to the same extent as older people “they do have a greater sense of European citizenship and what that means.”
The MEP thanked the students, Principal Gerry Connolly and teacher Ciaran Pettit.