A Ballycastle debating team will argue how to defeat terrorism at an All-Ireland final showdown in Dublin this week.
The teen debating titans at Cross and Passion College are preparing for their war of words with St. Joseph’s Presentation College, Lucan, Dublin at the final of the acclaimed Concern Debates contest this Wednesday [May 18th].
They hope to be the first team from Northern Ireland to win what is Ireland’s biggest schools debating competition since 1990 when it was won by St. Patrick’s Grammar School, Co. Armagh.
Cross and Passion College is the only other Northern Ireland school to win the contest during its 32 year history since they scooped the prestigious first prize in 1986.
This is also the first time schools from Northern Ireland have participated in Concern Debates since the early nineties.
The two finalists - the last out of the 151 school teams who participated this year - will argue ways to defeat terror groups.
Cross and Passion College will oppose the motion that “to defeat terrorism the world must end poverty” while St. Joseph’s Presentation College will argue for it at The Helix venue in Dublin from 7pm.
This follows both teams – each made up of a captain and three other speakers – successfully arguing that Britain should remain in the European Union at the competition’s semi-final in The Honourable Society of King’s Inns in Dublin last month.
Cross and Passion College is represented by Captain Sorcha Hughes, 17, Roisin Neill, 18, Luiseach Mathers, 17, and Orla Donnelly, 17 and the school is hoping for its second win in the competition since 1986.
Captain Sorcha Hughes said: “We are delighted to reach the final and really excited.”
The Ballycastle debaters made it to the final after defeating Athlone Community College, Co. Westmeath, who won the contest three times before.
Representing St. Joseph’s Presentation College are Captain Lauren Boland, 18, Kate Moore, 17, Claire Williams, 17, and Jenny Gillen, 18 - and their school are hoping for their first win in the competition after beating CBS Secondary School, Kilkenny in the semi-final.
St. Joseph’s principal Bernadette Fitzgerald said: “The motion for the final is very topical and the students are looking forward to grappling 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” and that “the EU can well afford to open its borders to refugees.
The winning team will be invited to see one of Concern Worldwide’s many overseas programmes where the aid-agency is fighting poverty and saving lives.
Last year’s winning team, De La Salle in Bagenelstown, Co Carlow – who argued that the European Union is failing Africa - travelled to a Concern programme in Mozambique.
Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest humanitarian aid agency, created the competition in 1984 to encourage further learning and debate about issues of global justice and human development – and it has grown to become the largest in the country for secondary schools.
Over 50,000 students have taken part in it 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 around two weeks before each debate and one side opposes it while the other argues for the statement even if they disagree with it.
Concern Worldwide’s Schools Programme Coordinator, Evanna Craig, said: “Concern Debates have undoubtedly changed dinner conversations all over the country.
“We are very proud of all the teams who took part this year – which saw more schools than ever participate.
“We would urge any school or student interested in taking part next year to get in touch with us – there will probably be high demand so we may have to cap the numbers registering for the first time ever.
“The benefits are huge – and time and time again, our debaters tell us how it has inspired and helped them with their career choices by the time they did their leaving certificate exams, and really given them confidence starting out in college.
“And of course for us the hope is that they go on to become lifelong advocates of social change around the world.”
This year’s final will be chaired by Newstalk broadcaster Shona Murray - an honour previously held by other well-known broadcasters, such as Ray D’Arcy, Claire Byrne, Bryan Dobson, Tom Dunne, Anton Savage and George Hook.
Anyone who wants to participate in Concern Debates can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01 4177733.