Cross and Passion are word-warriors

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Ireland’s new school debating champions are a team of teenage word-warriors from Ballycastle who won the prestigious Concern Debates competition after arguing how to defeat terrorism.

The Cross and Passion College debating team won the All-Ireland showdown after arguing against the motion that ‘to defeat terrorism the world must end poverty’ at The Helix in Dublin on Wednesday night.

Winning Concern Debates team Cross and Passion College team with Concern's CEO Dominic MacSorley and the debate's chairperson Newstalk journalist Shona Murray. inbm22-16s

Winning Concern Debates team Cross and Passion College team with Concern's CEO Dominic MacSorley and the debate's chairperson Newstalk journalist Shona Murray. inbm22-16s

They are the first team from Northern Ireland to win the Concern Debates competition since 1990 when it was won by St. Patrick’s Grammar School, Co. Armagh. This was also the first time schools from Northern Ireland participated in Concern Debates since the early nineties – and it was the second time that Cross and Passion College won the contest since 1986.

They were one of 151 schools taking part this year in what is Ireland’s largest schools debating competition.

Winning team captain Sorcha Hughes, 17, said: “This is just the best thing ever. The motion was very topical and also the subject of many conversations with friends and family and we are delighted to win.”

Sorcha and her team, Roisin Neill, 18, Luiseach Mathers, 17, and Orla Donnelly, 17 – who are also doing their A-Level exams – will travel to one of Concern Worldwide’s overseas programmes, where they will see first-hand the aid agency’ s life-saving work. Full story online!

They defeated St. Joseph’s Presentation College from Lucan, Co. Dublin, whose captain Lauren Boland described her participation in the competition as “one of the highlights of my school career.”

Concern Worldwide Chief Executive Dominic MacSorley praised all teams that took part and said: “We started these debates 32 years ago and we now have a young army of change agents.

“They don’t have weapons, but they have knowledge, passion and commitment and I truly believe that they will make a difference in the world.”

Concern’s John O’Loughlin-Kennedy, 83, who founded the aid agency in 1968 with his wife Kay, described the debaters as possible future political leaders.

Mr O’Loughlin-Kennedy, who attends the debating final each year, said: “I was amazed by the quality of the debate and the delivery. They were really very professional in their presentation.”

The chairperson of the final was Newstalk journalist and presenter Shona Murray, who said: “I was incredibly impressed by the passion and level of research the teams brought to the debate.

“It’s really refreshing to see young people engaging in issues dealing with international affairs.”

Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest humanitarian aid agency, created the competition in 1984 to encourage further learning and debate about humanitarian and development issues – and it has grown to become the largest in the country for secondary schools.

Since then over 50,000 students took part and many went on to have successful careers – including RTE broadcaster Claire Byrne and TV3’s Xpose presenter Karen Koster.

Participants are given a topical motion two weeks before each debate and one side opposes it while the other argues for the statement even if they disagree with it.

Other motions debated in this year’s Concern Debates have included the argument that ‘young people should be trusted to vote at 16,’that ‘the EU can well afford to open its borders to refugees’ and that ‘Britain should remain in the European Union.’

Any school that wants to participate in the next Concern Debates competition can email debates@concern.net or phone 01 4177733.