Castlebar students Elijah and Simeon Burke have won the inaugural Mayo Schools’ Debating Competition, having successfully opposed the motion ‘That This House is Against Independence for Catalonia’ – in the Grand Final, which was held in Trinity College Dublin on 18 November.

Sponsored by MAYO.ie in association with Bank of Ireland, Mayo Association Dublin’s inaugural schools’ debating competition carried the proud patronage of Dr Mary Robinson.

Following the semi-finals which took place in GMIT Mayo in Castlebar on 28 October, the Grand Final on 18 November was hosted by TCD’s Historical Society – ‘the Hist’ – the oldest student debating society in the world.

* Proposing Teams: St Joseph’s Secondary School, Castlebar (Katherine Smith & Kate McCarthy) and
Davitt College Castlebar (Michael Fleming & Aiden Cusack)

* Opposing Teams: St Louis Community School Kiltimagh (Fleur Griffin & Niamh Kelly) and Burke Home School, Castlebar (Elijah & Simeon Burke)

* Individual Speakers: Proposers – Tom Baynes (St Gerald’s College, Castlebar), and Brenda Chanza (Scoil Muire agus Padraig, Swinford); Opposer – Caitlin Dolan (Davitt College, Castlebar)

Judge Mary Laffoy presents the team trophy to Elijah and Simeon Burke, Burke Home School, Castlebar.

A perpetual trophy (sponsored by Bank of Ireland, Mayo) was awarded by Judge Mary Laffoy to Elijah and Simeon Burke, the winning team from Burke Home School, Castlebar, who opposed the motion. She presented the individual speaker prize to Tom Baynes from St Gerald’s College Castlebar, who favoured the motion.

Our panel of prestigious judges included Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, President of the Citizens’ Assembly and former Supreme Court President; Iarla Mongey, PR and Public Affairs Consultant; former TD Pat Rabbitte, Dr Carmel Heaney, GMIT, and Padraic Lyons, BL, former Convener of the Irish Times Debating Competition.

Iarla Mongey, Judge Mary Laffoy, Pat Rabbitte, Dr Carmel  Heaney and  Padraic Lyons, BL.

Judge Laffoy paid tribute to all of the speakers for the high standard of their contributions. She praised the competition and said she hoped it would be held again in the future.

Julie Doyle, Chairperson, Tom Baynes, St Gerald’s College Castlebar, Judge Mary Laffoy and Dr Mona McGarry, President.

Julie Doyle, Chairperson of Mayo Association Dublin, said that the standard of debate in the final was extremely high, adding that the students performed brilliantly. “The competition has been a great success and has achieved its objective of helping young Mayo people to prepare for the leadership roles they will play in the future.

“We congratulate both the winning team and individual speaker, but all the students who took part at every stage of the competition are also winners!” She noted that the competition will be held again next year and said that Mayo Dublin Association expects that even more schools in Mayo will now be involved.

“We are grateful to our sponsors, MAYO.ie and Bank of Ireland, and to GMIT Castlebar for all their support, and to the students, teachers, parents and adjudicators whose hard work and commitment has made the competition such a success,” she said in conclusion.

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