Oxford wins debating finals in Cork

Mon, Jan 5, 2009, 00:00

OXFORD UNIVERSITY went home with a replica of the Sam Maguire Cup at the weekend when its team of James Dray and Will Jones won the World Universities Debating Championships in Cork.

It was a case of second time successful for the two friends and students of politics who had previously competed at the world championships finals in Vancouver, Canada, in 2006. They had missed out on last year’s finals in Bangkok, Thailand, only to win the event in Cork on Saturday evening.

Hundreds of delegates from among the 1,000 visitors to the event hosted by the law and philosophical societies at University College Cork packed Cork City Hall on Saturday to see the four top teams from 308 entries from more than 40 countries compete in the finals.

The Oxford A team of Mr Dray and Mr Jones saw off the challenges from the Oxford C team of Jonathan Leader-Maynard and Alex Worsnip, Cormac Early and Lewis Bollard from Harvard A and Ravi Dutta and Victor Finkel of the Monash B team from Melbourne.

Among the guests at the finals were the president of UCC, Dr Michael Murphy, and vice president for the Student Experience, Con O’Brien.

The winners were presented with a Cavan Crystal replica of the Sam Maguire by chief adjudicator Derek Lande.

Mr Dray (26), from South Africa, who is completing his doctorate in politics at Mansfield College at Oxford, said they were in opposition to the motion “That this house would allow abortion at all stages of pregnancy”.

Mr Jones (22), his English teammate, is studying politics at Balliol College, said their experience of debating together had stood them in good stead even though it still remained a difficult subject to discuss.

“We knew it would be very hard competing in the world championships and we had a couple of lucky shots and here we are. The motion was very close to the bone obviously, it was something I had thought about before, but it was a very sensitive motion so that made it difficult.”

Mr Dray was full of praise for the organising committee at UCC which had ensured the championships, the largest academic competition in the world, progressed smoothly over the Christmas and new year break. At one point 78 debates were running simultaneously on the university campus.

Mark Collins, director of registration and communications for the event, told The Irish Times that they were pleased with the response from both the visiting 1,000 delegates and the university’s authorities at the way in which they had handled the event.