Trinity students will make up a majority of finalists in the Irish Times Debate final after contestants from several campus societies progressed from each of the four semi-finals.
A total of seven speakers from the College Historical Society (the Hist), Trinity Law Society (LawSoc), the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) and its affiliated Bram Stoker Club progressed from a series of four semi-finals.
Students debated topics including artificial intelligence (AI), Irish unification and disability rights in Ireland.
One pair and one individual speaker was selected to progress from each semi-final of 12.
LawSoc members Eoin Ryan and Louise Cullen were the first to go through the semi-finals on January 25, arguing against the motion that “this house has hope for the future of disability rights on the island of Ireland”.
The pair argued that disability rights are often sidelined by government in favour of more politically advantageous issues, which the judges praised for its “realistic interpretation of the systemic barriers” faced by people with disabilities in Ireland.
Ryan and Cullen told Trinity News that it was “definitely a surprise” to go through to the final as it was their first time competing in the competition.Eoin Ryan and Louise Cullen, TCD Law Soc, congratulated by Lorcan O’Brien, TCD Phil; Photo: John Ohle for Irish Times
“Given all of the excellent teams we competed against, we are absolutely delighted and honoured to have gone through”, Cullen added.
The next day they were followed by Bram Stoker Club Chair Stephen O’Sullivan and former Phil President Ellen McKimm who argued that though we might not know precisely how AI will change our lives, the scale of its impact will, like the internet, be too big to overstate.
McKimm said she was “absolutely over the moon” to make it to the final of the competition.
“We’re really excited for the next round,” McKimm said. “My granny is lighting candles so hopefully that helps.”
O’Sullivan, from Kerry, echoed his partner’s excitement: “When it comes to debating in Ireland, the Irish Times isn’t the Hogan Cup, it’s the Sam Maguire, so we’re very excited.”
Phil member Matilda Brewe progressed alongside her society peers with an argument on the opposite side of the motion, which judges deemed the only speech “to articulate why we should be so suspicious of the people behind the AI hype”.
Martha McKinney-Perry and Andy Cullinan from the Hist advanced from their semi-final last Thursday where they argued that “unification is not in the best interest of the people of the 26 counties”, impressing the judges by presenting “brave and original ideas”.
The Hist’s success continued the following night when committee member Athena Wu was named the best individual speaker in the last semi-final.
The debaters will take part in the grand final of the competition later this month, where they will face off against competitors from King’s Inns, the Solicitors’ Apprentice Debating Society of Ireland (SADSI), and the Army Cadet School.
No debaters will represent University College Dublin (UCD) in the final despite a strong showing in several of the semi-finals. All finalists are from Dublin-based institutions.