A Cork secondary school has reached the final of Ireland’s largest debating contest after successfully arguing against the use of torture to prevent terrorism.
The Sacred Heart, Clonakilty team, made up of captain Laura Walsh, Maebh McCarthy, Natasha Sutton and Caoimhe Ni Shuilleabhain won their semi-final clash with CBS Thurles after opposing the motion that ‘torture is a just means of preventing terrorism.’
The delighted team hope to become the second Cork school to win the all-Ireland, 33-year-old contest run by aid agency Concern Worldwide. Bandon Grammar School won the competition in 2012.
Their proud mentor and teacher Eileen Harte said that while the school has been involved with Concern Debates for over 20 years, this was this team’s first year in the contest.
Ms Harte said: “They are thrilled. Until now, the furthest the school has reached in Concern Debates is the knockout rounds.
“The girls never expected to get this far and are very excited. There is also a great sense of pride in the school where students have been congratulating them in the hallways.
“Students who have taken part in Concern Debates have benefitted hugely from it and done very well in their Leaving Cert and gone on to third level.
“It helps with their research skills, confidence and broadens their interest in topics.” Concern Worldwide’s Head of Active Citizenship, Michael Doorly, who leads the team that organises the annual championship, said: “Sacred Heart showed incredible skill in the debate and we congratulate their hard work and all who have supported them.
“All four semi-finalist teams debated a difficult topic with sensitivity, intelligence, clarity and even a touch of humour in that one team quoted Jack Nicholson’s character in the film A Few Good Men when he says, ‘You can’t handle the truth.’” The other teams in the semi-final were Rathmore Grammar School, Finaghy, Belfast, who proposed the motion and lost to St Mary’s CBS, Co. Carlow – who will face Sacred Heart in the final at The Helix, DCU, Dublin at 7pm on Thursday, May 4.
The winning team will be invited to see one of Concern’s overseas projects, which saw last year’s winning team, Cross and Passion from Co. Antrim, travel to Malawi in south-east Africa.
Participants are given a topical motion two weeks before each debate and one side opposes while the other proposes, even if they disagree with the statement.
Over 50,000 students have taken part in competition since it was created in 1984, including well-known professionals like RTÉ presenter Claire Byrne, and many say it has helped with their studies and personal development.
The contest encourages further learning and action on issues of global justice and human development.