Northern Ireland Election 2016

NI assembly election: 'Good Friday Agreement generation' to have their say

The BBC's Tara Mills speaks to students at Belfast Met
Image caption BBC Newsline's Tara Mills met politics students at Belfast Met to speak about their experience in a post-Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland

First-time voters in next month's Northern Ireland Assembly election are getting the chance to challenge politicians live on BBC One next week.

In an hour-long special I am presenting with Stephen Nolan, almost 200 18-year-olds will voice their opinions and put the parties on the spot about their policies.

We spoke to politics students at Belfast Met who were born in 1998, and they said they appreciate the significance of the year in which they were born.

It was a year that saw fundamental change in Northern Ireland with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Experience

Student Stuart English said the the agreement is "better than the alternative... if it means we live in peace".

Image caption Stuart English said the reality of living through the violence of the Troubles is something his generation know little about

"I didn't experience the Troubles but my father did, and I might hear a bit about it from him," he said.

"But personally, I don't know what it would be like.

"We hear about it but we don't know what it must have been like day to day."

Courtney Girvin, a product of integrated education, agrees.

"I'm pro-Good Friday Agreement and I have a lot of friends who say it's useless and it hasn't done anything," she said.

"It can be improved, yes, but it's so important because we live in relative peace."

Image caption Courtney Girvin said the Good Friday Agreement has allowed Northern Ireland to "live in relative peace"

Hannah Kennedy said she will be voting and believes it is important that others do too.

"We've come through the Good Friday Agreement and I think we've different opinions from the older generation," she said.

"So if enough young people don't vote then there won't be the opportunity for this new era of politics to come about."

Opportunity

Stephen Nolan said he wants the young people to "pull no punches" when they face the political parties.

"Politics isn't boring - it's incredibly important if you want to shape the country you live in," he said.

"So let's make this an exciting night where we hear new voices telling out politicians what they want their Northern Ireland to be."

Image caption Hannah Kennedy (second right) said first-time voters like her have "different opinions from the older generation"

On the night, young people from schools, colleges and those not in education or training will be putting these questions to representatives political parties fighting the election.

Kathleen Carragher, the head of BBC News NI, said the programme is an "exciting opportunity" to find out what Northern Ireland's young people want to ask politicians.

"It will be a chance to hear about the issues that matter to today's young voters and potentially the policy makers and politicians of the future.

"This is just one part of BBC News NI's extensive election coverage in which we are bringing all the passion, the drama and the debate to our audiences, across radio, television and news online."

Election 2016: The Good Friday Agreement Generation will air at 21:00 BST on Wednesday 20 April on BBC One Northern Ireland and on the BBC News Channel.

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