On the Friday 1 April 2011, a group of 22 Swedish students came to visit Sullivan Upper as part of their conflict studies field trip. All Lower 6th politics students greeted the group and began to show them around the school. After lunch we were paired off with a student and took them to go around our classes with us. For many of us, coincidentally, we had politics with Ms Morgan after lunch. This was an exciting opportunity for both the Swedish students and the politics students. The Swedes jumped at the chance to be able to learn more about the political culture of Northern Ireland and our perspective on the conflict our county had experienced. They were particularly fascinated by the amount of peace walls that were in our country, although they knew more about them than we did. It was also exciting for us to learn more about how the political process works in Sweden and their culture, which to our surprise was very socialist and liberal compared to here. They, on the other hand, were surprised that we had to wear uniforms which reminded them of Hogwarts.
At the end of the day the Swedish students were invited to come to Politics Society in which the society welcomed a past pupil, Chris Lyttle, who was now an Alliance party MLA for East Belfast, much to Mr Armstrong’s disbelief! In the meeting Chris spoke on his entry to politics, the education systems flaws and paid particular attention to issues affecting us such as the infamous Tuition fees. He later discussed how Alliance had a real chance at election success this year as Northern Ireland began to move away from a polarized society and into real politics with real policies. Then Mr Armstrong turned the questions to the Swedes, asking about what they’d learnt about Northern Ireland in the week We were surprised by the insights they’d gained, and I think that our MLA’s could learn a lot about how we should be educated of the troubles.
I feel that both groups took a lot away from this experience especially a little bit of the culture of both Northern Ireland and Sweden a like. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Armstrong for the large effort put in to arranging this and hope that next year’s Lower 6th have just as exciting experience as we had!
Donnchadh Greene Secretary of the Politics Society