Junior Tynwald 2019 has served to demonstrate young people’s ‘real passion for politics’ said the Deputy President of Tynwald, the Hon Juan Watterson SHK.
Mr Deputy President was speaking at the conclusion of the sitting held on Monday July 14 which saw year 12 students from Ballakermeen High School, Castle Rushen High School, Queen Elizabeth II High School, Ramsey Grammar School and St Ninian’s High School assume the roles of Members of the House of Keys and the Legislative Council.
Questions for oral answer included the Hon Member for Douglas East, Ms Elleanor Manley, (Ballakermeen High School) questioning government policy on receiving refugees into the Island; the Hon Member for Ayre and Michael Mr Harry Dunne asking whether the Island’s status as a financial centre is in decline; and the Hon Member for Glenfaba and Peel, Mr Ewan McClelland (Queen Elizabeth II High School) questioning the education system’s support of young people’s mental health issues. The questions prompted animated debate, notably from Mr McClelland, Mr Dunne, the Hon Member for Rushen Miss Chloe Sloane (Castle Rushen High School) and Mr William King MLC (Castle Rushen High School).
Other questions included whether it was ethically responsible for the Government to invest in non-environmentally friendly stocks and shares and what plans were proposed to increase funding to reduce Noble’s Hospital’s waiting times and improve standards.
The Hon Member for Douglas Central Miss Emma Mitchell’s (Ballakermeen High School) well researched motion: ‘That Junior Tynwald is of the opinion that oil and gas exploration in Manx waters is likely to be detrimental to the environment and should be stopped’ generated well-informed debate from Members including Mr Dunne, who cited Norway’s stance, and from an impassioned Mr McClelland, before concluding with a compelling, well-articulated reply from Miss Mitchell.
The Hon Member for Rushen Miss Chloe Sloane’s (Castle Rushen High School) motion: ‘That Junior Tynwald is of the opinion that greater use should be made of referendums to enhance the democratic process’ prompted enthusiastic debate from, among others, Mr King and detailed observations from the Hon Member for Ramsey, Mr Billy Cain (Ramsey Grammar School), along with enthusiastic contributions from the Hon Member for Middle Miss Laura Nicholson (Castle Rushen High School).
The debate concluded with a carefully considered and well-argued reply from Miss Sloane. Both motions failed to carry.
Reflecting on his experience Ewan McClelland said: ‘I enjoyed taking part enormously. It was better than I imagined and I found it quite surreal to be occupying the seat of an actual Member of the House of Keys.’
Alice Main, from Queen Elizabeth II High School, who took the role of a Member of the Legislative Council, observed: ‘I was impressed by how friendly the atmosphere was, despite the formality of the proceedings, but noted how challenging it can be on occasions to get a clear answer to a question. I’ve learned a lot, though, about how Tynwald works.’
Billy Cain said that taking part in Junior Tynwald had boosted his confidence, while Elleanor Manley appreciated the opportunities afforded to Members to address the House.
Chloe Sloane, who is looking to study economics and politics at university, said: ‘It was a new and very useful experience; I believe it’s important that young people of the Isle of Man learn about their parliament. I really liked the opportunity to research a topic then to be able to apply the findings in the Chamber. Overall I would say that being part of Junior Tynwald was like “looking through the keyhole” at how parliament works.’
Harry Dunne said: ‘I’m hoping to read politics at university so I enjoyed the whole process enormously, especially the fact-checking process ahead of the sitting. It was a great experience and it’s not every day you get the chance to stand up and speak in Tynwald Court.’
Mr Deputy President said: ‘It was an excellent sitting marked by insightful and well-researched contributions. It was good to see that there’s still a real passion for politics among young people and Junior Tynwald serves as the ideal arena in which to showcase that.’
The Outstanding Participant Award went to Chloe Sloane. Presenting the prize, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Keys, Mr Chris Robertshaw MHK, said it had been a ‘splendid session’ distinguished by ‘powerful contributions’. He went on to praise Miss Sloane for the skill she showed in her challenges and answers and the ‘tremendous amount of work’ she had put into her preparation.