Teams from Athlone and Kilkenny won the battle of words at the 2019 All-Ireland Final of the Gael Linn debating competition, Comórtas an Phiarsaigh !
The event took place in the Lucan Spa Hotel on Wednesday last, 27 March 2019, and was the culmination of this year’s competition, organised annually by Gael Linn, with funding from Foras na Gaeilge, for second level schools nationwide, in which over 150 schools have taken part since October last.
In the junior section of the competition, the topic for debate was ‘Ba cheart dúinn uilig éirí as feoil a ithe!’ (We should all give up eating meat!). Teams from St. Mary’s College, Arklow and St. Anne’s Secondary School, Tipperary Town spoke in favour of the motion, while teams from Belvedere College, Dublin and Athlone Community College, opposed. The young orators were well-informed on the topic, and put their respective arguments across to the large audience comprehensively! There were five adjudicators on the panel – Seán Mac Labhraí, Máirín Uí Mhuirí, Áine Máire Ní Ghioballáin, Fergus Ó Conghaile and Antóin Delap and the standard of debating was so high, that they took some time in coming to their decision. There was great jubilation among the supporters of the Athlone Community College team when they were declared winners. Team members, Emma Ní Fhlannabhra, Ryan Ó Raifeartaigh and Emily Ní Shíocháin were thrilled to lift the Gael Linn Cup - another feather in the school debating cap, having won the senior title in the 2017 final! Teacher Avril Ní hÓráin prepared the team for the debate, and was very pleased when her students triumphed!
A lively debate followed between the senior teams, this time from St.Gerald’s College, Castlebar, Laurel Hill Secondary School, Limerick, Eureka Secondary School, Kells and Kilkenny College. The motion was particularly appropriate for this age group- ‘Ba cheart an aois vótála in Éirinn a ísliú ó 18 go 16 ! (The voting age in Ireland should be reduced from 18 to 16! ). Passionate speeches were made by the young orators, with plenty of point-scoring and rebuttal from both sides ! In the end, the winning words of the Kilkenny College team, Molly Parmeter, Iseult Ní Chathail and Rachel Ní Chaomhánaigh, ensured their victory. This is the first time a team from the school has gone all the way to the top, and there was great excitement among their supporters! Regina Ní Riain is the teacher who guided the pupils on the journey to their All-Ireland title, and she was justifiably delighted and proud of her team’s success!
Guest chairperson on the night, Peter Kavanagh of the Green Party, praised the participants in both debates for their command of current affairs and excellent oratorical skills. He expressed great interest in the discourse, and challenged the large audience in attendance with his own thoughts on the subjects.
The winning teams in both the junior and senior sections of the competiton were presented with perpetual trophies, along with a prize €1,000, and an award of €250 went to each of the other finalists. The winners also received a part Gaeltacht scholarship to a Gael Linn Summer College in Donegal.
Congratulating the winners on their accomplishment, Gael Linn CEO Antoine Ó Coileáin thanked the teachers for their help and dedication in preparing the teams and said:
‘The Gael Linn debates are very popular with schools because they give students the opportunity to research topics and to present their case in Irish before an audience. Comórtas an Phiarsaigh cultivates young Irish speakers and we are delighted that the competition is going from strength to strength.’
Notable participants in Gael Linn debating down through the years include a host of high profile journalists and broadcasters such as Claire Byrne, Marian Finucane, Mary Kennedy, Evanne Ní Chuilinn and Harry McGee. Many have credited the Gael Linn debates with fostering their love of Irish and with giving them confidence in public speaking.
All-Ireland Junior winners in the Comórtas an Phiarsaigh debating competition, Ryan Ó Raifeartaigh, Emma Ní Fhlannabhra and Emily Ní Shíocháin, Athlone Community College, Co Westmeath with their teacher Avril Ní hÓráin. On left is Antoine Ó Coileáin, CEO Gael Linn and on right, guest chairperson Peadar Caomhánach, Green Party Irish language spokesperson.
All-Ireland senior debating champions in the Gael Linn Comórtas an Phiarsaigh competition, Molly Parmeter, Iseult Ní Chathail and Rachel Ní Chaomhánaigh, Kilkenny College, after they were presented with their trophy and prizes at the Lucan Spa Hotel, Co Dublin, Wednesday, March 27. On left is guest chairperson Peadar Caomhánach, Green Party Irish language spokesperson, and right, Antoine Ó Coileáin, CEO Gael Linn.