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Ministers get a grilling at Junior Tynwald 21 July 2008

Government Ministers got a grilling from the newest batch of voters as 16 and 17-year-olds from all five high schools took part in the annual Junior Tynwald.

Organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in conjunction with the Department of Education, the event saw Year 12 students fill the seats of MHKs and MLCs in the Tynwald chamber to pose thorny questions to Ministers and passionately debate motions.

The sitting may have been purely for educational purposes but some serious and topical issues were on the question paper, including abortion law, the cost of getting on and off the Island, affordable housing, recycling and work permits. Among the Ministers put on the spot were Mrs Anne Craine MHK (Education), Mr David Anderson MHK (Transport) and Mr Phil Gawne MHK (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry).

Turning to the order paper, St Ninian’s High School student Lorcan O’Mahoney persuaded Members to overwhelmingly back his motion that democracy at local level was failing as two thirds of local authorities did not go to the polls to elect members this spring. Junior Tynwald 08

His assertion that politicians were all ‘middle-aged men in suits’ prompted Mrs Clare Christian MLC, chairman of the Isle of Man branch of the CPA and a member of the organisation’s executive, to reply: ‘We could be young men and young women if young men and women would take the bull by the horns and contest elections!’

Becca Kelly, from Ramsey Grammar School, sparked the lengthiest debate of the day by proposing that young drivers be prevented, on safety grounds, from sitting their driving test until they reach 17, a year older than at present. But she failed to win the support of fellow students.

One young ‘Member’ even raised a point of order involving Tynwald’s standing orders with President of Tynwald Noel Cringle, only to be overruled!

Packing the press benches, working alongside real-life reporters from Isle of Man Newspapers and Manx Radio, were students from all five schools. Their reports will feature on and will be broadcast on Manx Radio on Thursday evening and on Sunday.

Students were led on a tour of the Tynwald, House of Keys and Legislative Council chambers and behind the scenes of Legislative Buildings by the President, who pointed out to them the 1417 Customary Law setting out proceedings at St John’s on Tynwald Day and told them about the Revestment Act of 1765, which paved the way for Her Majesty the Queen to be Lord of Man.

He explained how the tri-cameral system differed from the UK’s Parliament, which has two houses. He told students that women in the Isle of Man were given a vote in 1881, many years before the UK Suffragette movement’s campaign, and he said the Island was ahead of Parliament in extending the franchise to 16-year-olds. He said Tynwald continued to lead the way among parliaments, with the verbatim record of proceedings, Hansard, now operating by voice recognition.

Students learned that in the Isle of Man the Speaker of the House of Keys can lose his seat at an election, unlike his UK counterpart, where the seat is, by tradition, not contested. They found out that the seat occupied by the President of Legislative Council was made of kangaroo skin and was a gift from the Australian Government!

The President told the students that some of them might have had their appetites whetted to stand for election in years to come. He praised the lively and active standard of debate and told them: ‘You are a credit to your schools and to yourselves.’

See below for the full text of Mr O'Mahoney and Miss Kelly's motions.

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