Guide for speakers entering the competition

Mr Martin Collins, LIT DEB, NUIG, tries to make a point during The Irish Times Debate final 2004 at the Helix. Photograph: Moya Nolan

Mr Martin Collins, LIT DEB, NUIG, tries to make a point during The Irish Times Debate final 2004 at the Helix. Photograph: Moya Nolan

Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 16:34

Whether you are an experienced Irish Times speaker, or a novice, you are likely to have questions about the competition’s format and timetable, the difference between the Irish Times and other competitions, the way to approach Irish Times motions, and the way in which debates are adjudicated. This guide provides you with vital information that you will need to compete. You should retain a copy throughout the duration of the competition for reference. If you require further information about the competition, please contact debates@irishtimes.com.

Competition structure

  • There are 16 first round debates, including generally up to 10 teams of 2 speakers.
  • Two teams and two individual speakers will qualify from each debate for the second round. The 32 teams and 32 individuals who qualify for this will be divided into 8 second round debates, each with four teams and four individuals. At the second round stage, teams and individuals will be drawn in specific debates - they may not “swap” their position on an order paper.
  • From each second round debate, two teams and two individuals will qualify for the semi-finals.
  • The 16 teams and 16 individuals who reach the semi- finals will be split into four debates containing four teams and four individuals. From each semi-final, one team and one individual qualify for the grand final.
  • At the grand final, the winning team and winning individual speaker are chosen. In addition to the prestige the winners enjoy a remarkable prize; an all-expenses-paid tour of the United States.

Logistics

  • The only information that you need to compete is an order paper. At the first round stage, you will be selected by your institution to compete in a particular debate, as DIT C, UCC Philosoph F, TCD Hist A or something similar. The alphabetical tag has no significance, and will be replaced by your names, at the first round debate.
  • The order paper will detail the motion, your speaking position, and the time and place of the debate. On each order paper, a meeting point will be specified (sometimes a reception venue, sometimes the actual debate venue) for 30 minutes prior to the scheduled commencement of the debate. The debate will start punctually.
  • Each debate is hosted by a particular society or union in the relevant college. They are responsible for providing you with directions, and information on travel and accommodation in the location where the debate is taking place. A contact person and a contact telephone number in the host college are supplied on each order paper, if you need any help.
  • Notwithstanding this, it is your own responsibility to arrange transport and accommodation for each debate. The college or society that you represent will often make some arrangement with you about defraying your costs.
  • The order papers for the subsequent rounds will not be posted to speakers, but to the society or union that you are representing. They will be responsible for passing the details on to you.

Format of debates

There is a necessary distinction in format between first round debates of the Irish Times, and all subsequent debates:

The first round:

In a first round debate there are generally eight-10 teams. Taking an eight team debate as our example here, four teams will propose the motion, and four teams will oppose the motion, beginning with the proposition, and speaking alternately, one member of a team at a time. Thus, at the half-way point, the first speaker from each team will have spoken. The second half of the debate follows the same order, with the second member of each team speaking in the same sequence. Thus, in a debate with eight teams, the order of speaking would be as follows:

(1) Speaker 1, Proposition Team 1
(2) Speaker 1, Opposition Team 1
(3) Speaker 1, Proposition Team 2
(4) Speaker 1, Opposition Team 2
(5) Speaker 1, Proposition Team 3
(6) Speaker 1, Opposition Team 3
(7) Speaker 1, Proposition Team 4
(8) Speaker 1, Opposition Team 4
(9) Speaker 2, Proposition Team 1
(10) Speaker 2, Opposition Team 1
(11) Speaker 2, Proposition Team 2
(12) Speaker 2, Opposition Team 2
(13) Speaker 2, Proposition Team 3
(14) Speaker 2, Opposition Team 3
(15) Speaker 2, Proposition Team 4
(16) Speaker 2, Opposition Team 4

Subsequent rounds:

Each of these debates will feature 4 teams, and 4 individual speakers. 2 teams and 2 individuals are on each side of the motion. The first member of each team speaks first, then the four individuals, then the second member of the four teams. The order paper will thus be:

(1) Speaker 1, Proposition Team 1
(2) Speaker 1, Opposition Team 1
(3) Speaker 1, Proposition Team 2
(4) Speaker 1, Opposition Team 2
(5) Proposition Individual 1
(6) Opposition Individual 1
(7) Proposition Individual 2
(8) Opposition Individual 2
(9) Speaker 2, Proposition Team 1
(10) Speaker 2, Opposition Team 1
(11) Speaker 2, Proposition Team 2
(12) Speaker 2, Opposition Team 2

Showing up

  • It is vital that the society is represented at every debate in which it has entered a team. Unexplained no-shows are completely unacceptable and if they occur, the Convenor reserves the right to:
  • Bar the society in question from hosting debates in subsequent rounds
  • Disqualify all other teams from the same institution
  • Fine the institution
  • If a team selected to speak in a round unavoidably cannot be present the society in question should
  • Make every conceivable effort to send a replacement team
  • As a matter of last resort, ensure that they contact the host institution before the start of the debate (contact details will be on the order paper), to inform them that they are unable to participate.

Competition rules

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