Teen is first Sinn Fein member to address Commons

A teenage student today became the first Sinn Fein member to speak in the House of Commons.

Connor Morgan, 18, spoke in Gaelic as he addressed a meeting of the UK Youth Parliament sitting in the Commons chamber.

Mr Morgan, from Maghera, said his Sinn Fein membership was "completely irrelevant" as Members of the Youth Parliament do not have party loyalties.

He told the Press Association: "I'm here today just for the young people of my area.

"That's the only thing I want, to represent the young people of my area. I want to represent their views."

Mr Morgan, who is studying politics at Leeds University and represents Northern Ireland in the UKYP, spoke during the debate on raising tuition fees.

Commons Speaker John Bercow, who was chairing the second meeting of the UKYP in the Chamber, told the MYPs that Mr Morgan would say "some words in Irish Gaelic".

Mr Morgan spoke briefly in the language before saying in English: "It is a great honour to stand here before you and to have the opportunity to address you in Irish."

Sinn Fein's MPs do not take their seats in Westminster because they refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Around 300 MYPs aged between 11 and 18 sat on the Commons' green benches during the meeting, the second to be staged in the chamber.

The session comes after MPs voted earlier this year to allow the UKYP to hold an annual sitting in the Commons for the remainder of the Parliament - scheduled to end in 2015.

Mr Morgan spoke to oppose the proposed removal of the cap on university tuition fees contained in Lord Browne's report on higher education funding.

He said raising the cap would mean "education will become a privilege only for those who can afford it".

He added: "Is it just that the current Members of Parliament, many of whom had a university education paid for by the state now expect us, the innocent and disenfranchised in this economic mess, to pay for the mistakes that they have made?

"Is is right that considering we, as young people, are constantly being told that we are the future, our future appears to us to be a burden of debt and uncertain job prospects?"

But James Bartle from Newcastle said: "This rise in fees is absolutely necessary if we are to maintain high standards in our education system."

There was a "crisis" in university funding with institutions "starved of cash," he said.

Another issue debated was "should sex and relationships education (SRE) be compulsory from primary school onwards".

Speaking for the motion, Cornwall MYP Joe Vinson argued that SRE was needed to balance sexual images in the mainstream media and promote confidence in young people.

"Sex education needs to start early to stop the damage before it's too late," he said.

But Sutton MYP Maria Finnerty argued teaching SRE at primary school would be "too much too young".

Buckinghamshire's Abla Seckley asked MYPs to raise their hands if they were "mortified" by the idea of having "the talk" with their parents - prompting great support.

Cheshire East MYP Elizabeth Jessop said priorities should be finalised at a local level.

"Sexual education is not a condom," she said. "One size will not fit all to solve this problem."

Opening the meeting, Mr Bercow told the MYPs that the Commons could learn from them how to be more representative.

He said: "I have always been struck by the fact that 50% of you or thereabouts are female, approximately 20% of you are from black and minority ethnic communities and approximately 10% of you have some form of disability.

"So in terms of representing the kaleidoscope of modern society the UK Youth Parliament does it very impressively and does it in a way from which the elected House of Commons itself can learn."