Dublin dominates `Irish Times' debate

Wed, Feb 24, 1999, 00:00

Speakers from Dublin colleges took all the honours at this year's Irish Times Debate final.

Ms Caoilfhiann Gallagher and Ms Bernadette Quigley of UCD brought the team title to the Literary and Historical Society for the first time in five years. Mr Rossa Fanning, of King's Inns, who was contesting the final for the third year, took the prize for best individual.

Ms Yvonne Campbell and Ms Brid McGrath, of the Trinity College Dublin Historical Society, came second in the team competition, while Mr Eoin MacGiolla Ri made it a clean sweep for the King's Inns in the individual competition, by taking second prize.

The motion for the debate, "That this house would deport all refugees", proved difficult to propose. Mr Fanning summed up the discomfort of the proposition speakers when he compared his task to speaking in favour of the motions "That fascism deserves another chance" or "That AIB treats all its customers equally".

Mr Fanning argued that the whole debate on refugees was "dominated by political correctness to an outrageous extent". Host nations should consider the effect of the refugee's departure on his or her country of origin. By facilitating them in leaving, host nations undermined the ability of the asylum-seeker's home country to deal with its problems in the long term, particularly when people of working age were allowed asylum for economic reasons.

Ireland should not even accept asylum-seekers whose lives were in danger, Mr Fanning said. Instead, it should send them home and warn the authorities in their country of origin that political and economic sanctions would follow if they were harmed. Political martyrdom, though regrettable, often led to dramatic improvements in the political structure of a state.

Ms Bernadette Quigley argued that Ireland should live up to its international responsibilities and "accept all those who are living in intolerable situations" as refugees. Irish people should have learned the lessons of the mass emigration during the great Famine.

Her team-mate, Ms Gallagher, said the Geneva Convention's definition of who should be granted refugee status should be broadened to include those who are persecuted by groups other than the state. Economic deprivation should also be taken into account by the Irish authorities.

Ms Gallagher and Ms Quigley were awarded the Demosthenes Trophy, while Mr Fanning took home the Christina Murphy Memorial Prize. All three will undertake a speaking tour of colleges in the United States later this year.

The debate was chaired by the Irish Times Education Correspondent, Mr Andy Pollak. The presiding adjudicator was a barrister, Mr Tim O'Leary. He was joined on the adjudication panel by the Irish Times Literary Editor, Ms Caroline Walsh, the Cork Institute of Technology registrar, Mr Brendan Goggin, Prof James A. Johnson, of the Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and a UCC marketing lecturer, Mr Don O'Sullivan.