Rigby Jones debating Round One: Two fiercely-contested debates open this year’s Kildare schools competition

County Kildare Inter Schools Debating Competition for the Rigby Jones Shield, in association with the Leinster Leader

Treasa Uí Riagáin


Treasa Uí Riagáin



Gaelcholáiste Chill Dara, Naas, hosted the opening round of the long-established Co Kildare Inter Schools Debating Competition for the Michael Rigby-Jones Shield, in association with the Leinster Leader recently and ensured that there was a well prepared venue and a céad míle fáilte for all.

The host school also provided a chairperson and timekeeper for the evening’s two debates and all with the assistance of the school’s Deputy Principal, Conor O’Mahony.

The packed audience of enthusiastic team supporters, proud parents and teachers were welcomed on behalf of the Debate Committee by Mr. Dan Boland, Chairman of the adjudication panel.

The first motion for debate, ‘That our country has failed the poor and the homeless’ was proposed by the team from Gaelcholáiste Chill Dara, Captain Cliona Neary, Niamh Conaty and Sinéad Cassidy. They put forward a strong argument citing the failure of government to deal with and indeed solve the pressing crisis of poverty and homelessness in the Ireland of 2017.

Their thorough research produced shocking figures in relation to child poverty as was the unacceptable decline in the building of social housing.Cliona cited the 7,500 people homeless in Kildare alone.

The second speaker for the Gaelcholáiste, Niamh Conaty, focused audience attention on the gaping divide between the will of the people and political action where feigning sympathy and deep concern prevailed but, where housing was left to the private sector. She also brought Ireland’s bid to host the World Cup as a priority of Government, to audience attention as the same government makes feeble attempts to provide homes for our poor. City hostels, she argued were seen by many as dangerous places. She also pointed to Cork city where there were numerous vacant houses.

Their third speaker, Sinéad Cassidy berated politicians for the sin of expressing great concern and sympathy but doing nothing to improve the situation.

The case for the opposition was laid out clearly by Captain of the CBS Naas team, Cormac Egan. He began by asserting that the only real failure is ‘giving up’ and as such that it is unreasonable to blame the government. The motion he pointed out referred to ‘our country’ and as such that it is unreasonable to blame the government. He pointed out that the motion referred to the failure of ‘our country’ which he maintained included work like that of Fr. Peter McVerry.

Team mate Ernest Zurs, cited 35,000 new social housing units and the government action plan to accelerate social housing plans. He referenced an improved rental sector also, where eviction is less likely. He indicated that the Irish people would not allow failure and would not make mistakes of building too quickly without provision of infrastructure. Andrew Robertson the third speaker analysed the concept of poverty in modern Ireland where life is significantly better than in earlier years, pointing to the fact that we live in a real world not a fantasy of perfection. He compared Ireland’s situation to that of the UK which has double the rate of poverty.

The two team captains ended the debate with rebuttal of opposing team arguments and a summary of the case put forward by their respective teams. Captains Cormac and Cliona ended the debate by refutation of opposition argument and summation of their team’s case.

Mr. Dan Boland delivered the decision of the of the judging panel with reference to the lively, articulate and confident presentation of argument by both teams and congratulated them on their research and delivery. CBS Naas, were then declared the winners.

The second debate of the evening followed with the very live topic of the moment 'That the Gárdaí no longer enjoy the trust and confidence of the Irish people.’ The team from the Patrician Secondary school, Newbridge, Captain Glen McLoughlin, Matas Misevians and Oisín Heffernan proposed the motion and the team from St. Mary’s College Naas, Mia Sherry, Cerys Walsh and Bonnie O’Halloran provided the case for the opposition.

Captain Glen McLoughlin set out his team argument with reference to the abundance of available material on this topic. He cited the major problems within the force and pointed to Templemore Training Centre as the source, focusing on inexperience, the existence of 50 bank accounts and some doubtful transactions in relation to flowers for a politician! He also noted the examination by the European Court of Auditors. Matas Misevians, the second speaker for the proposition illustrated the damage done to public trust by the appalling treatment of Garda whistle-blowers such as Garda Maurice McCabe and issues of lost evidence and, the closure of 135 Garda Stations. He condemned what he interpreted as loyalty prized over honesty and blame shifting in order to hide corruption.

Oisín Heffernan focused on the resignation of two Garda Commissioners, the dishonesty of the removal of penalty points from own licences, lying consistently, profiling ethnic minorities, fake breathalyser results and finally, trust compromised.

St. Mary’s College Naas, led by Captain Mia Sherry had the difficult task of opposition to the motion and, of making a strong case for public trust and confidence in the Gardaí. Supported by team mates Cerys Walsh and Bonnie O’Halloran they provided an honest and clear-cut appraisal of the plight of the Garda in relation to the confidence of the general public. Mia proceeded to put the plight of the Gardaí into context — pointing to our banks and hospital services. She cited survey results rating public satisfaction and she also cleverly directed our attention to the service delivered by the Gardaí — our first port of call in need and, the hard work of the majority.

Cerys Walsh took up the baton and made comparisons with gross negligence in other jurisdictions and total incompetence and dishonesty such as seen in the Sheffield Stadium disaster in Britain where 16 police were convicted of manslaughter. Cerys also cited cutbacks in resourcing resulting in their need to fight crime on a budget. She demanded that we give credit where it is due.

Bonnie O’Halloran as third speaker for St. Mary’s drew our attention to the fact that the Garda problem re. lack of trust refers more to management than the Garda on the street — 80% of people having mid to high levels of trust in Gardaí.

With very competent summaries from both team captains, the debate left the judges making another difficult decision. Mr. Dan Boland announced that St. Mary’s had won, commenting on the very high quality of debate and, saying that although there was an unanimous decision that it was a very close match.