Dalriada School from Ballymoney, Northern Ireland will be travelling to London next week to take part in the National Final of the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition, a three day residential weekend of debate hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine from the 1-3 July.
The team of fiery teenagers from Dalriada triumphed in the Scotland and Northern Ireland Regional Final earlier in the year, and now have their sights set on the national title of what has been dubbed ‘the toughest debate competition in the UK’.
Dalriada’s six debaters - Christy Gregg, Andrew Hanna, Peter McCully, Luke McAuley, Charlie Maclaughlin and Sarah McQuillan – will be travelling to London with teacher Vincent Doherty to take on the best debaters from seven other schools from across the UK. Sponsored in the Scotland and Northern Ireland Region by the Medical Research Council, the team have the firm backing of the scientists from the region, one of whom, Professor Nick Hastie, director of the Human Genetics Unit said that “these students are undoubtedly the leaders of the future”.
Competing teams at the National Final, including Dalriada, will be pitted against top name judges, who are set to put students through their paces with tough questions and critical feedback. Judges at the National Final this year include: Anthony Horowitz, author and writer; Raymond Tallis, Professor Emeritus of Geriatric Medicine and Consultant Physician; and Beeban Kidron, director of Cross Street Films.
Topics up for debate at this years’ national final look at some of the most difficult and challenging issues facing society. Students will be tackling the question of whether prisoners should have the vote, if IVF should be provided to older women and whether other European countries should take the lead from France and ban the burqa. In addition to the seven debates held over the course of the weekend, Debating Matters is also staging a series of events for the students and schools attending. Expert witness seminars will be held on each of the national final debate topics, and Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, will also be chairing a special Question Time style debate, with guests including leading economist, Ruth Lea, BBC Foreign Correspondent Humphrey Hawksley and former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris.
The Institute of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters Competition is a national sixth form debating competition involving 192 schools and more than 1000 students across the country. Challenging young people to engage in robust debate about real world issues, Debating Matters insists that students are up to the task of doing some in-depth research and having their arguments held up to adult scrutiny. Each debate includes judges in the discussion, who ask students challenging questions, engage them in debate, and push them to substantiate their case.
Should they win, Dalriada will not only make history as the first Northern Irish school to enter the main competition and win, but will also be taking home £2000 worth of books for their school library from prize sponsor Hodder Education, and some exciting prizes for themselves.