BBC Northern Ireland Political Correspondent Stephen Walker spoke to several History and Politics classes on Friday 9th October, following the previous evening’s lecture on the Maclear Brothers in WW1.
One of Northern Ireland’s best-known journalists working today, Mr Walker, who has recently published ‘Ireland's Call: Irish Sporting Heroes Who Fell in the Great War’, spoke to forty remove form boys about his First World War research. His book uses rare archival material to chart the wartime service and sacrifice of a remarkable range of Irish international sportsmen, including footballers and rugby players, athletes, GAA stars, cricketers, hockey players and a record-breaking Irish champion golfer. Mr Walker was impressed by the range and quality of the questions asked by boys currently working towards their IGCSE history qualification, a modern course in which the shadow of the First World War is keenly felt.
Mr Walker then spoke to a group of fourteen students of A level Government & Politics, whose course involves some focus on the topic of Devolution. He outlined some of the challenges and highlights of his role as a journalist and presenter and, having recently interviewed the Prime Minister and covered the Conservative Party Conference, gave his audience a flavour of a typical working week at the BBC. Mr Walker spoke with great insight about the constitutional settlement in Northern Ireland, the peculiarities of the voting system and the ‘creative ambiguities’ that have often underscored the challenges of power-sharing. He then took a number of interesting questions from the floor as the discussion switched from the recent comments of Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, that the devolution settlement itself is at stake as talks proceed towards resolving the current gridlock at Stormont, to the young generation of Northern Irish voters and the extent to which we have seen a greater consensus emerge outside of the older political establishment, particularly in relation to social issues.
Following Mr Ian Shield’s lecture on International Relations earlier in the term, this was another excellent opportunity for our politics students to meet a leading figure in the field and it will have done much to spark further interest in a fascinating feature of the UK political landscape.