Belfast Telegraph

Nobel Laureate learns from south Belfast students

By Dave Whelan

Students in south Belfast have been given the opportunity to have their say on the Northern Ireland peace process – in an audience with a Nobel Laureate.

Armed with questions for the Burmese peacemaker and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, students at Wellington College, Lagan College and Aquinas Grammar school were delighted to find an influential politician who wanted to listen rather than talk.

"How do you see the future of Northern Ireland?" she asked pupils at Lagan College, "Do young people still have ideals or are they out of date?"

Later she told pupils at Wellington College: "The main reason I have come to Northern Ireland is to learn about how you managed to negotiate a peace process in spite of all the difficulties.

"It is very useful, what we have learned here I think will help us a great deal back in Burma.

"I want to see from you how you see your present day problems because I am told the work is not done."

Students told of how refreshing it was to be listened to by the influential figure, who has spent over 15 years on house arrest because of her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma.

Head girl at Lagan College, Sophie Miller said: "It was really nice that she was interested in us because children and young people aren't listened to enough.

"Especially going to an integrated school, we are away from the past and working towards a shared future."

Earlier on her whistle-stop tour the Suu Kyi had lunch with members of the PSNI and Justice Minister David Ford before meeting members of the main political parties at Stormont.

"The last 30 years has been a struggle not just against a dictatorship but a struggle against our people accepting the dictatorial regime's definition of their own country and it is a matter of making our people think for themselves and, as we put it, to shape their own destiny," she said.

"We wanted to shape our own destiny, we decided that we had the right to shape our own destiny.

"It is always the case that authoritarian governments try to convince the people that they know best, that the people don't know best and it is best for them to listen to their rules and to do exactly what they are told."

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