UCD law students beat national champions of Scotland, Wales and England in the international debating final, while Loreto College on the Green accomplish the same feat in the schools’ final.
Sunday 24th April, Dublin – On Saturday 23rd of April, the best debaters of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales assembled in Dartmouth House, London, for the final of the internationally renowned debating competition, the John Smith Memorial Mace.
First established in 1954, the competition was renamed in 1995 to honour the late British Labour Party leader John Smith, a member of the 1962 winning team for Glasgow University, representing Scotland. Previous winners of the John Smith Memorial Mace include Donald Dewar, Charles Kennedy, John Nicolson, and UCD’s own Anthony Clare, Patrick Cosgrave and Owen Dudley Edwards.
Each national team was selected based on gruelling preparatory rounds. The Irish champions, University College Dublin law students Aodhán Peelo & Clíodhna Ní Chéileachair, had their first knock-out debate in autumn of 2015, and won the Irish final several months later on the 16th of April. A week later, and they were representing the country in London, facing off against the national champions of the UK – University of Cambridge, representing England; Glasgow University, representing Scotland; and the University of Swansea, representing Wales.
Clíodhna, a former committee member of the UCD Literary & Historical Society and Aodhán, current auditor of the UCD Law Society, are no strangers to high stakes debating finals. Clíodhna is the reigning champion of the Irish Times National Debating Competition, And Aodhán is a finalist of the European Universities’ Debating Championships. But Saturday was their first time representing Ireland in the prestigious International Mace. They each spoke for nine minutes in favour of the motion “That This House Believes That Anti-Racist Activism Ought Also to be Anti-Capitalist”.
After the round, the panel of 5 top international debate judges came to a unanimous decision – that UCD would be bringing the trophy back to Ireland.
Member of the panel, Robeto Sarrionandia,, had this to say of the Irish performance, ” Cliodhna’s strategy game was fierce, putting Ireland in a position where they could convincingly sweep up the benefits of market regulations that England had said were good, while also being able to go further and win on activist efforts that require pointing out circumstances where the market fails people. This left room for Aodhan to come in and throw some serious shade at the Scottish team and mop up the case for what effective social activism would look like on the ground.”
With only a week to research the topic and prepare arguments, the final is a test of skill, rhetoric, and argument. As law students, you might expect that this comes naturally to Clíodhna and Aodhán. “I wish it was that easy!” said Clíodhna. “Our law classes obviously help with some techniques, but debating is an art form in and of itself. We have weekly training in UCD from some of the world’s best coaches, and get amazing support from the University and the Societies’ Officer when it comes to attending competitions and getting the practice we need to excel.”
Following the final, UCD’s Clíodhna and Aodhán congratulated their fellow Irish representatives, Grace Given and Sarah Duffy of Loreto College, St Stephen’s Green, who took home the winning trophy from the international final of the ESU Schools’ Mace.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Aodhán, “Even to have the chance to represent the university and the country abroad is such a privilege. To bring the trophy home to UCD is a dream come true, and for Ireland to win both competitions in one day is even better.”
For more information on the John Smith Memorial Mace visit http://www.esu.org/programmes/universities/competitions/john-smith-memorial-mace