North / South Schools Link

The North/South Schools Link Programme was launched today by the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mr Ahern and Mr Blair attended the inauguration of the scheme at St. Aidan’s C.B.S. school in North Dublin. launch.jpg
launch2.jpg Pupils from four schools around the country participated in a question and answer session with the two leaders via a video link. Students Loreto Grammar School,Omagh Limavady Grammar School, Carrigaline Community School, Cork. and St. Aidan’s asked the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister questions.
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, explained how the donation of 100 computers to the Omagh community by Dell computers sparked the idea of linking schools from north and south of the border. Telecom Eireann and Dell computers are the sponsors for the North/South Schools Link Programme.

"It’s good that we can do something positive," the Taoiseach said, hoping that the schools could "work together to make this a really great country in the 21st century, working closely with our neighbours in the nearby islands".
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launch4.jpg Pupils from four schools around the country participated in a question and answer session with the two leaders via a video link. Students Loreto Grammar School,Omagh Limavady Grammar School, Carrigaline Community School, Cork. and St. Aidan’s asked the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister questions.
"The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach sat in front of computer terminals, where they communicated with students from the other three schools through the video link. Questions ranged from the educational benefit of cross-border institutions to the European single currency. launch5.jpg
launch6.jpg Asked by Alana Mailey, a student from Limavady Grammar School, if he thought he would ever see a United Ireland in his lifetime, Mr Blair responded that he believed that he would not see one, but stressed that the important thing "is that we now have a framework in which the people of Northern Ireland will decide their own future". The Prime Minister described this framework as "a huge, huge step forward". He said: "People can make their opinions known in a democratic way."
The Taoiseach spoke of the importance of building "a society of peace, a society of reconciliation, a society where we all work together…away from the terrible legacy of violence". "Peace, harmony and reconciliation" were keywords during the video conference. "We must build up the trust and confidence in each other," Mr Ahern said, in response to a question from St. Aidan’s student Greg Fitzpatrick. launch7.jpg
launch8.jpg The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach were presented with cut glass bearing the motto of St. Aidan’s, Pax Et Spes (Peace and Hope). "Pax Et Spes is a pretty good motto for everyone," Mr Blair said.
The launch was also attended by the Minister for Education and Science, Michael Martin, the Minster for Public Enterprise, Mary O’Rourke, and the British and Irish ambassadors. In a warm atmosphere, the Prime Minister joked about being in the Taoiseach’s old school, in the same hall as where Mr Ahern had sat his exams. Holding the microphone in his hands, he said he felt as if he was "about to burst into song". launch9.jpg
launch10.jpg The video link technology worked successfully after an initial problem with the line to Omagh Grammar School. There was a degree of feedback, but this was to be expected at this stage of the technology’s development.
Brother Gerry Cashel, principal of St. Aidan’s, said: "Video conferencing will assist students in their efforts to establish a more peaceful and just society on this island." He noted the success of the IT 2000 schools programme, which was launched a year ago in the school. "Faxing and e-mailing have become routine communicative procedures for students," he said: "Our students regularly communicate with schools in Slovakia and Spain. Communications technology is bringing students closer together." launch11.jpg
launch12.jpg The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach were presented with cut glass bearing the motto of St. Aidan’s, Pax Et Spes (Peace and Hope). "Pax Et Spes is a pretty good motto for everyone," Mr Blair said.
How the students saw the day How the teachers saw the day