Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Thursday, 24 March 2011

School Report 2011: Northern Ireland politicians speak

School Reporters across Northern Ireland interview members of their political parties.


Students from Glengormly High and St Louis Grammar met Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister:

Martin McGuinness
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

On why the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was a high point in his political career:

"That agreement has changed everything for the better I believe. Where we are now is a far better place than where we were 15 or 20 years ago. We've brought an end to conflict. We are involved now in building important relationships.

"I think the work we have have engaged in over the course of this process has been hugely important for our people, particularly our young people as we try to build a new future."

On higher university fees:

"I am opposed to an increase in tuition fees. My party is on public record as having said that. I know that other parties similarly don't support an increase in tuition fees. I think there's a huge challenge in universities to see what more they can do."


Students from Glengormly High and St Louis Grammar met Robin Newton, Democratic Unionist Party junior minister:

On youth unemployment:

Robin Newton
Democratic Unionist Party junior minister Robin Newton

"We have a problem with those who opted out of school early or finished school without any qualifications or minimal qualifications and now find it very difficult to get jobs - young people who are described as NEETS - Not in Employment, Education or Training. We have 20% of our young people aged 16-24 who are currently unemployed. That is a big challenge for us."

On people who say assembly members just spend their time drinking coffee and eating biscuits:

"I think they should come and spend a day here! When [work experience pupils] come down from the school... I say 'Do you want to spend the politician's day or do you just want to work the 9 to 5 day?' I've only had one student who said he wants to work the politician's day."


Students from St Comhghall's College, Lisnaskea and Lurgan Junior High interviewed John McCallister of the Ulster Unionist Party.

John McCallister
The Ulster Unionist Party's John McCallister

On raising the school-leaving age to 18:

"I support the prime minister's view of extending compulsory education to 18. But there are many more factors on how some students feel at school. Why should pupils at secondary school get significantly more spent (on them) than at primary school when primary school can make such a big difference to lives?"

On how to prevent chaos when it snows in winter:

"We need to look at sorting out who is responsible for, say, pavements and minor roads - who takes on the responsibility. In say, the case of towns should shopkeepers clear the footpath in front of their premises? Who takes on the liability? That's where the system had fallen down this year.


Students from St Comhghall's College, Lisnaskea and Lurgan Junior High talked to Alban Maginness of the Social Democratic and Labour Party

On his career highlight:

Alban Maginness
Social Democratic and Labour Party member Alban Maginness

"In 1997 I was made Lord Mayor of Belfast. That was very, very important because... it gave confidence to people, particularly in the nationalist and Catholic community, that the city of Belfast was their city, that the high office of Lord Mayor was now a shared office, and effectively we brought about power-sharing in Belfast city council."

On opposing higher university tuition fees:

"I think the prime minister has made a big mistake... He is increasing the fees by twice, maybe three times. I think that's a very bad thing because I think whenever students to go university they should not have to carry the burden of debt which they will have to carry as a result of the prime minister's decision to increase tuition fees.

"That will affect us here in Northern Ireland… that will put off people going to university."


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