Minister Flanagan quizzed on gardaí, cannabis and gender pay gap, by Portarlington students

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

Tough questions were put to Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan, by young politically aware students in Portarlington.

The Laois Minister came to the school on Monday, December 18 local TD and met the new Student Council and presented them with their Certificates of Election.

They had some serious questions ready for him on the day, ranging from confidence in the Gardaí, to legalising medicinal cannabis, to the gender pay gap.

One student got a round of applause from his classmates, when he asked when the new building for Coláiste Iosagáin was actually going to become a reality.

Ben Wheatley, a 6th Year student asked the Minister when students would have their new school building.

Building was due to commence a few years ago on a brand new school on site, but blocks still have to be laid, with the school now cramped beyond capacity, with over 1,000 students in old buildings and prefabs.

The Minister assured students that “money was not an issue” and building would commence in 2018.

The newly elected Student Council is led by Deputy Chairpersons Aoibh Keogh and Anito Marcarelli. They formally welcomed Minister Flanagan to their school when he first arrived, and and introduced him to their fellow students.

Speaking to a hall packed with first and fifth year students, Minister Flanagan also spoke of his own experience of being a member of a Student Representative Council many years ago when he was a student in Knockbeg College, Carlow.

Minister Flanagan then presented each of the members of the Student Council with Certificates and participated in the Question and Answer session.

“The Minister aquitted himself well and answered all questions put to him. However the greatest round of applause came at the end of the event for Ben's question,” Deputy Principal Justin Brown said afterwards.

The recently formed Student Council consists of twenty students elected by their peers.
It was a hard fought election in the school at the start of the year, with 74 students going forward for election to the Council, with voting taking place last October.

Each of the candidates campaigned by making a presentation to their Year on why they should be elected to the Student Council. Students then voted by secret ballot to elect their representatives.
Principal Seamus Bennett and Deputy Principal Siobhán Higgins also welcomed the Minister on his visit to Coláiste Iosagáin.