At the World Universities Debating Competition held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, earlier this month, two speakers from the University Philosophical Society made it all the way to the semi-finals of the competition, and narrowly missed out on proceeding to the final. The team comprised of Hugh Guidera, junior sophister Law and Political Science student and Phil registrar, along with Michael Barton, junior sophister History and Political Science student and former finalist at the European Debating Competition 2013.
After eight preliminary rounds of debating, Mike and Hugh placed 29th out of the 370 teams competing and came a respective 21st and 79th on the speaker tab, qualifying them for the open octo finals, where they continued to proceed in the competition until the semi-finals.
Speaking to Trinity News about his success, Michael Barton was particularly thankful for all the support he had received: “A very big thank you to everyone who was supportive of me and Hugh at Worlds,” he said. “We were very lucky to have so many nice people sending us such nice messages so often.” He also gave a special thanks to his coach for the competition, former top speaker at the European Debating Competition, Sally Rooney: “We owe a special thanks to Sally, who (surprise surprise) is an incredible coach who did a fantastic job, and to the rest of the Irish delegation, a hyper-talented group of people who were a pleasure to spend time with.”
Mike and Hugh have spoken together on many occasions, and to much success, throughout their time debating in college. In 2013, they won the UCD Vice President’s Cup IV and reached the semi-finals of the SOAS IV in London. They continued to improve on this success in 2014, winning both the Irish National Law Debates in Galway and the SOAS IV in London.
The Phil team were joined at Worlds by two other Trinity teams from the College Historical Society. Dee Courtney – junior sophister History and Political Science student – and Caitríona Ní Bhriain – senior sophister French and Spanish – placed 43rd after the preliminary rounds and came 140th and 156th on the speaker tab, qualifying them for the open double-partial-octo-finals where they continued to proceed to the quarter-finals of the competition before being knocked out.
Meanwhile Naoise Dolan – junior sophister English Literature – and John Prasifka – senior sophister Mathematics – also had a stellar performance in the competition, coming 62nd and 89th on the speaker tab and placing 73rd out of the 370 teams, however not qualifying for the break to the octo-finals. The Phil and Hist teams were the only Irish delegations represented in Malaysia and their combined performances have seen some of Ireland’s best results in recent years.
Run by the Worlds University Debating Council, the competition, more commonly known as Worlds, is the largest and most prestigious intercollegiate debating competition globally. Beginning in 1981 in Glasgow, it has continued to be hosted by several different universities across the world. It has been run in Ireland on three occasions, most recently in University College Cork in 2009.
Photo: Naoise Dolan