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E8 Summit
May 29th Lough Erne Resort

Future leaders of Fermanagh have their say on Global issues at the E8 summit.

Wednesday the 29th May 2012 saw the culmination of two months of hard work by a group of 80 post primary year 9 and 10 pupils from across the county as they attended the E8 Summit held at the Lough Erne Resort, host to the G8 of 2013. E8 stands for Enniskillen 8, and inspired by the G8 to be held in Fermanagh in less than two weeks, is a junior version, giving the young voices of Fermanagh a chance to have their say on global issues of the 21st century and set out what they think should be the priorities for action taken by world leaders.

The Summit was opened by the Chairman of Fermanagh District Council Mr Thomas O’Reilly who welcomed the young delegates from Collegiate, Devenish, Erne Integrated, St Fanchea’s, Mt Lourdes, Lisnaskea High school, St Mary’s Brollagh, St Joseph’s, St Michael’s and Portora Royal and commended them for their engagement in the build up to the summit and the work they had done prior to the event. Following his opening address, the Lough Erne Resort’s General Manager, Mr Ferghal Purcell welcomed the delegates to the resort and served to ignite their enthusiasm for the event further once they learnt that they were seated in the very room that the G8 will be held and many of them sat in the same chairs that the leaders of the world’s wealthiest eight nations will occupy in less than two weeks.

The summit then proceeded with a series of short presentations designed and delivered by the eight cross community delegate teams covering global issues including: water scarcity, climate change, war on terrorism, deforestation, poverty and famine, transmittable diseases, energy futures and the global recession. The aim of the presentations was to raise awareness of the issue with their fellow delegates and also to highlight the need for funding, time and urgency of such action. Onlookers within the conference suite of the Lough Erne Resort were thoroughly impressed by the quality of the presentations given; the conviction with which they were delivered would rival even some of the most experienced adults and every one of the young delegates involved in this process should be extremely proud.

Ronan McCaffrey of St Michael’s was the first impressive speaker to stand at the lectern and set the standard in terms of the clarity and conviction of delivery which many of his peers matched successfully. Many of the young speakers also demonstrated excellent communication skills and innovation through use of props and video footage in order to grab the conference delegates’ attention.  Melissa Woods of the Collegiate Grammar composed her own poem on the theme of poverty and famine, which she delivered with great courage.

One Day

One Day we'll be free from all this despair,
Then we'll be happy, without a care
I feel empty like nothing is left inside,
Worry, pain, sickness, oh a river I've cried
No food for my belly, no water for my thirst
Diseases, suffering, death is it possible for worse?
My body shivers and shakes from that vicious cold,
Don't mention shelter, our home has been sold
Oh and education, I heard you say?
No school for me, there's a fee to pay!
But One Day we'll be free from all this despair,
Hoping, wishing, waiting that there's at least somebody there.

By Melissa Woods,
Collegiate Grammar School.

Following the morning’s presentations, the subsequent sessions of the summit involved the young delegates engaging in series of discussions and debates centred on the objective of prioritising actions in order to tackle the global issues highlighted in the morning. Each of the discussions was chaired and facilitated by one of the many guests and dignitaries who were in attendance at the summit and showed their support, including; The Director General of the US Consul Mr Gregory Burton, Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment Arlene Foster, MLAs Tom Elliot and Phil Flannigan, Councillors Thomas O’Reilly,  Robert Irvine, Brendan Gallagher and Bert Johnston, PSNI representation from PC Leslie Ward and Chief Inspector Sue-Ann Steen, Lauri McCusker from the Fermanagh Trust and Jeff Gawn of Fermanagh Scripture Union.

The final outcome of the summit was that the young people of Fermanagh were able to prioritise the global issues of the 21st Century in terms of their perceived need for action. Based on the many discussions and, at times, heated debates held throughout the day, the young voice of Fermanagh finally decided that the priority for action should be the fight against poverty and famine, closely followed by energy futures and water scarcity. What was evident from the young delegates after the summit was their increased understanding of the interdependence of many of these issues and by tackling one in particular you would inevitably address others, such as the links between energy futures, climate change and indeed, famine and water scarcity.

In all, the E8 summit was a great success not only giving the young people  of Fermanagh a chance to speak and be heard but also in terms of a learning experience both from a knowledge  and understanding perspective, as well as developing skills of communication, diplomacy, numeracy, and team work. Mr P Beddard, the summit organiser and teacher at Portora Royal School, would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in a highly successful youth summit, particularly the  groups and organisations who generously sponsored the event including the US Consul, the Lough Erne Resort, Fermanagh District Council, Fermanagh Trust, PSNI, Round Table and the Clocktower Bar and Bistro.

Phil Beddard (Portora Royal School, E8 Summit organiser)