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Students debate Irish neutrality in all-island Concern Debates final
Ireland’s neutrality will be debated by two of the country’s top school debating teams in a final that will be broadcast live online.
Galway’s Coláiste an Eachréidh debating team will debate the hot topic with Cork’s Mount Saint Michael in the final of the Concern Debates, which is the country’s largest secondary school debating contest with over 100 schools taking part each year.
The Athenry-based Coláiste an Eachréidh will propose the motion that ‘Ireland must remain committed to military neutrality’ while Rosscarbery’s Mount Saint Michael will oppose it.
The team proposing and opposing the motion was decided by a coin toss.
The showdown will be live-streamed at noon on Thursday, April 28 on YouTube by humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide, which runs the competition. It will be available at https://www.youtube.com/c/concernworldwide.
Concern said the motion is partly in response to the recent call by President Michael D Higgins for a well-informed debate about Irish neutrality.
“We always try to make sure motions are as current and topical as possible,” said Concern’s Head of Active Citizenship, Michael Doorly.
“President Higgins said this month that everyone would benefit from an informed debate about our neutrality and that is exactly what we will have from our incredible young debaters in this year’s Concern Debates final.
“We are hugely grateful to our finalists and to the hundreds of other students and teams that took part in our debating competitions this year at primary and secondary level.
“Debating is a wonderful and very useful skill for people to equip themselves with. It teaches us how to put our points across in a respectful, dignified, yet convincing way.
“In a polarised world like we have today, we have to find ways to engage better with one another rather than just shouting across the street and getting violent and that it what debating teaches us.”
The debating champions will each receive laptops as prizes while the runners up will get tablets.
Teacher and debating team mentor at Coláiste an Eachréidh, Marina Keating, said this is her school’s first time competing in the 38-year-long competition.
“It is a really big deal for the whole school and we have made it a point from the beginning of the competition to get all of the year groups behind the team and contributing to the discussions,” she said.
“The team have been wonderful ambassadors and role models for their peers in their passion for getting to grips with topics such as world hunger, inequality, climate change and social justice.”
Mount Saint Michael teacher and team mentor, Lorraine Teevan, said they have been participating in Concern Debates for 12 years and reached the semi-final in 2010 and the quarter final in 2020.
“Being involved in Concern Debates has helped our students to become more confident,” she said.
“They developed skills such as critical thinking, public speaking, research and presentational skills. They learned how to structure their thoughts and how to think on their feet.”
Concern created the competition in 1984 to encourage further debate and awareness of global issues and to improve the level of debating skills amongst young people.
Over 50,000 students have taken part since the competition began and some of its well-known past participants include Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, RTÉ broadcaster Claire Byrne and Virgin Media One presenter Karen Koster.
Next week’s final is taking place online for the third year in a row, but Concern is planning for the knock out stages of next year’s contest to return to audience-filled venues, if COVID-19 restrictions remain lifted.
Schools that want to participate in the next Concern Debates competition can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please contact Kevin Jenkinson by email: email@example.com.
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