Clonakilty schoolgirls win the national Concern Debates title

Clonakilty schoolgirls win the national Concern Debates title

Natasha Sutton, Caoimhe Ni Shuilleabhain , Maebh McCarthy, Laura Walsh, and their Mentor, Eileen Harte of Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty at the 2016-2017 Conern Debates Final, The Helix, Dublin. Photography by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.comNatasha Sutton, Caoimhe Ni Shuil

A DONALD Trump debate won a Cork team the prestigious mantle as all-Ireland champions of Concern Debates.

Sacred Heart Clonakilty won Ireland’s largest secondary school debating competition, which is run by aid agency Concern Worldwide, in a showdown with St. Mary’s Academy CBS Carlow at The Helix in Dublin where they argued many details about the United States president and his policies.

The four debaters successfully opposed the motion that "the Trump presidency will be a blessing in disguise for Africa."

The winning team – Captain Laura Walsh (16), Caoimhe Ni Shuilleabhain (17), Natasha Sutton (16) and Maebh McCarthy (16) – were awarded a large globe trophy, which they have since nicknamed 'The Donald,' in front of a packed venue, which included 80 of their fellow students from Clonakilty.

The debate was also watched online on Instagram Live and was also followed on Concern’s Snapchat and Twitter accounts.

As part of their prize, the debating champions will travel this July to Malawi in south-east Africa, which is one of the 26 countries where Concern Worldwide works to eliminate poverty.

Their team mentor and teacher, Eileen Harte, said: “We are delighted and very proud. This is an incredible honour for the girls and Sacred Heart after a lot of hard work.

“While celebrating on the way home, the girls started to call the trophy The Donald and were saying he was on his way to Cork and they were calling their individual smaller cup trophies his entourage.

“Debating is fantastic way for students to develop their research skills, knowledge on an array of topics and to give confidence in areas like public speaking.” The delighted team became the second school from West Cork to win Concern Debates since Bandon Grammar School won it in 2012.

Concern’s Head of Active Citizenship, Michael Doorly, who leads the team that organises the annual championship that is funded by Irish Aid, said: “Sacred Heart Clonakilty showed incredible skill in the debate and we applaud their achievement and hard work.

“Both teams debated a difficult topic with intelligence, clarity and even a touch of humour and we congratulate them and all the schools who took part this year.” Concern Worldwide created the competition in 1984 to encourage further learning and debate about humanitarian and development issues – and it has grown to become the largest in the country for secondary schools.

Over 50,000 students have taken part and many went on to have successful careers – including RTÉ broadcaster Claire Byrne and TV3 presenter Karen Koster – and this year alone over 110 schools participated.

Participants are given a topical motion weeks before each debate and one side opposes it while the other argues for the statement even if they disagree with it.

Other motions debated this year included the argument that torture is a just way to prevent terrorism, that the UN should be disbanded, there should be limits to free speech on social media and that ending poverty by 2030 is an impossible dream.

Any school that wants to participate in the next Concern Debates competition can email or phone 01 4177733.


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