Visit by the First Minister
Mr Robinson began by talking about his role as First Minister and the difficulties that face himself and the deputy First Minister regularly when dealing with a five party coalition. He drew comparison with the coalition in London and joked that perhaps Westminster is at last learning the difficulties themselves, and the frequent necessity to find common ground. He also discussed the trade offs between the different parties on many policies so that everyone in the Executive can agree on them.
We then moved onto questions from the pupils. One of the many questions asked was in relation to the leaflets in Alliance Party colours handed out by the DUP and UUP in Belfast. Mr Robinson said the leaflets did not say to go out and protests but that people should contact their local Alliance Party councillors, MLAs and MP to voice their opinion. He then produced one of the leaflets he had brought with him and pointed out that it clearly stated “Please be respectful at all times”.
One of the last questions was ‘If the UK leaves the EU, would Northern Ireland be better joining with the Republic?’ The First Minister said that the UK is a net contributor to the EU and such the reality is that Northern Ireland receives £10 billion points from the British treasury each year whereas if the Dublin government had to give us that amount it would “sink” their finances. He finished by saying that he believes a border poll would be a good way of the Northern Irish people telling Sinn Féin that they wanted to remain part of the UK.
Overall, the First Minister’s visit provided a fantastic insight into his role and gave us an opportunity to hear his opinion on recent events.
Jamie Woods (13G)