The Phil’s first debate of the year occurred on Thursday the 24th of September on the motion “This House Would do it for the Likes”. As is usually the case in Freshers’ week, it was a comedy debate featuring a variety of student speakers alongside Irish comedians. Although such debates can suffer from the attempt to combine stand up comedy with the formal setting of the GMB chamber, this particular one managed to be both humorous and, at times, thought provoking.
As per tradition, the debate was bookended by student speakers. Tom Cantillon gave the first speech in favour of ‘like culture’ and after explaining his past love affair with GAP jumpers, he was the first of many speakers to take the motion literally, taking a selfie of himself and the crowd. This was a repeated feature of the debate with James Kavanagh and Stephen Byrne both using audience participation to very good effect. Besides the use of this engagement in getting the crowd onside, it also helped to break up the routine of GMB chamber debates, which can often grow boring and stale towards the middle and end.
Although primarily focused on their own humour, the speakers were not above taking potshots at each other – with Conor Scully reminding Tom Cantillon of his facebook history and some comments from a friend. Scully then listed some unfortunate deaths due to selfies, one involving a mauling by a bear – which he compared to a usual night at the George. These sort of humorous descriptions also peppered the debate, with one speaker explaining how the kind of people who don’t support self adoration also usually share stuff about “keeping Britain clear of migrants”.
Northern Irish comedian Gemma Huton questioned modern Irish fashion choices asking if the poverty down here was so bad now that we had no choice but wear ill fitting trousers and no socks. The comic lineup was rounded out with Stephen Byrne and Davey Reilly, who memorably skewered inter-collegiate rivalries with a line about NCAD and IDAT and how “in the end of the day we all buy our weed off the same guy”.
Although perhaps inevitably not seeing particularly deep discussion, that simply wasn’t the point of this fun and engaging debate – which did still provoke some interesting questions. After all, as Davey Reilly asked, is the culture of harvesting likes healthy – and has that culture really allowed us, as Claire O’Nuallian asked, to leave the wasteland of social irrelevance. The debate ended with Architecture Society chair Sam Ford pointing out that he definitely didn’t do that for the popularity, before summing up the debate as a whole. With a lovely reception afterwards, the night was a good example of a very enjoyable experience in the GMB.